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University of California Berkeley 









1795 Oology 

v * 5 Library 

















H I S T O R 




Of Bird* in Genera!. 

WE are now come to a beautiful and loquacious race of 
animals, that embellifh our forefts, amufe our walks> 
and exclude folitude from our moft fhady retirements. From 
thefe man has nothing to fear ; their pleafures, their defires, and 
even their animofities, only ferve to enliven the general pi&ure 
of Nature, and give harmony to meditation; 

No part of Nature appears defiitute of inhabitants. Thd 
woods, the waters, the depths of the earth, have their refpe&ive 
tenants ; while the yielding air, and thofe traces of feeming fpace 
where man never can afcend, are alfo pafled through by multi- 
tudes of the moft beautiful beings of the creation 

Every order and rank of animals feems fitted for its fituation 
in life ; but none more apparently than birds ; they fhare in com- 
mon with the ftronger race of quadrupeds the vegetable fpoils 
of the earth, are fupplied with fwiftnefs to compenfate for their 
want offeree; and have a faculty of afcending into the air to 
avoid that power which they cannot oppofe. 


The bird feems formed entirely for a life of efcape; and every 
part of the anatomy of the animal feems calculated for fwiftnefs. 
As it is defigned to rife upon air, all its parts are proportionally 
light, and expand a large furface without folidity. 

In a comparative view with man, their formation feems much 
ruder and more imperfect ; and they are in general found incapa- 
ble of the docility even of quadrupeds. Indeed, what great de- 
gree of fagacity can be expected in animals whofe eyes are almoft 
as large as their brain ? However, though they fall below qua- 
drupeds in the fcale of Nature, and are lefs imitative of human 
endowments ; yet they hold the next rank, and far furpafs fifties 
and infects, both in the ftructure of their bodies and in their faga- 

As in mechanics the moft curious inftruments are generally the 
moft complicated, fo it is in anatomy. The body of man pre- 
fents the greateft variety upon diftedtion , quadrupeds, lefs per- 
fectly formed, difcover their defects in the fimplicity of their con- 
formation ; the mechanifm of birds is flill lefs complex ; fillies 
are furnifhed with fewer organs ftill ; while infects, more imper- 
fect than all, feem to fill up the chafm that feparates animal from 
vegetable Nature. Of man, the moft perfect animal, there are 
but three or four fpecies ; of quadrupeds, the kinds are more 
numerous ; birds are more various ftill ; fifties yet more ; but 
infects afford fo very great a variety, that they elude the fearch 
of the moft inquifitive purfuer. 

Quadrupeds, as was faid, have fome diftant refemblance in 
their internal ftructure with man; but that of birds is entirely 
diflimilar. As they feem chiefly formed to inhabit the empty re- 
gions of air, all their parts are adapted to their deftined fituation. 
It will be proper, therefore, before I give a general hiftory or 
birds, to enter into a flight detail of their anatomy and conforma- 

As to their external parts, they feem furprizingly adapted for 
iwiftnefs of motion. The fliape of their body is fharp before, to 
pierce and make way through the air ; it then rifes by a gentle 
fwelling to its bulk, and falls off in an expanfive tail, that helps 
to keep it buoyant, while the fore-parts are cleaving the air by 


their fharpnefs. From this conformation, they have often been 
compared to a {hip making its way through water; the trunk of 
the body anfwers to the hold, the head to the prow, the tail to 
the rudder, and the wings to the oars ; from whence the poets 
have adopted the metaphor of remigium alarum^ when they de- 
fcribe the wavy motion of a bird in flight. 

What we are called upon next to admire in the external for- 
mation of birds is, the neat pofition of the feathers, lying all one 
way, anfwering at once the purpofes of warmth, fpeed, and fecu- 
rity. They moftly tend backward, and are laid over one another 
in an exact and regular order, armed with warm and foft down 
next the body, and more ftrongly fortified and curioufly clo&d 
externally, to fence off the injuries of the weather. But, left 
the feathers mould fpoil by their violent attrition againft the air, 
or imbibe the moirture of the atmofphere, the animal is furnimed 
with a gland behind, containing a proper quantity of oil, which 
can be prefled out by the bird's bill, and laid fmoothly over every 
feather that wants to be drefted for the occafion. This gland is 
fituated on the rump, and furnimed with an opening or excretory 
duel: ; about which grows a fmall tuft of feathers, fomewhat 
like a painter's pencil. When, therefore, the feathers are mat- 
tered or rumpled, the bird, turning his head backwards, with 
the bill catches hold of the gland, and, preffing it, forces out the 
oily fubftance, with which it anoints the disjointed parts of the 
feathers ; and, drawing them out with great affiduity, recompofes 
and places them in due order ; by which they unite more clolely 
together. Such poultry, however, as live for the moftpart un- 
der cover, are not furnimed with fo large a ftock of this fluid as 
thofe birds that refide in the open air. The feathers of an hen, 
for inftance, are pervious to every mower; on the contrary, 
fwans, geefe, ducks, and all fuch as Nature has direed to live 
upon the water, have their feathers drefled with oil from the very 
firft day of their leaving the fhell. Thus their ftock of fluid is 
equal to the neceffity of its confumption. Their very flefh con- 
tracts a flavour from it, which renders it in fome fo very rancid, 
as to make it utterly unfit for food ; however, though it injures 
the fiefh, it improves the feathers for all the domcftic 
to which they are ufually converted. 


Nor arc the feathers with which birds are covered lefs an ob- 
ject of admiration. The ihaft of every feather is made propor- 
tionably ftrong ; but hollow below for ftrength and lightnefs, 
and above filled with a pith to feed the growth of vane or beard 
that fprings from the (haft of the feather on either fide. All 
thefe feathers are placed generally according to their length and 
ftrength, fo that the largeft and ftrongeft feathers in flight have 
the greateft (hare of duty. The vane, or beard of the feather, is 
formed with equal contrivance and care. It confifts not of one 
continued membrane; becaufe, if this were broken, it could not 
eaiily be repaired ; but it is compofed of many layers, each fome- 
what in itfelf refembling a feather, and lying againft each other in 
clofe conjunction. Towards the {haft of the feather, thefe layers 
are broad, and of a femicircular form, to ferve for ftrength, and 
for the clofcr grafting them one againft another when in action. 
Towards the outer part of the vane, thefe layers grow ilender and 
taper to be more light. On their under fide they are thin and 
fmooth ; but their upper outer edge is parted into two hairy edges, 
each fide having a different fort of hairs, broad at bottom, and 
(lender and bearded above. By this mechanifm, the hooked 
beards of one layer always lie next the ftrait beards of the next, 
and by that means lock and hold each other. 

The next object that comes under confideration in contemplat- 
ing an animal that flies, is the wing, the inftrument by which this 
wonderful progreffion is performed. In fuch birds as fly, they 
are ufually placed at that part of the body which ferves to poize 
the whole, and fupport it in a fluid that at firft feems fo mucli 
lighter than itfelf. They anfwer to the fore-legs in quadru- 
peds, and at'the extremity of this they have a certain finger-like 
appendix, which is ufually called the baftard-wing. This in- 
ftrument of flight is furnimed with quills, which differ from the 
common feathers only in their fize being larger, and alfo from 
their fpringing from the deeper part of the fkin, their fhafts lying 
almoft clofe to the bone. The beards of thefe quills are broad on 
one fide and more narrow on the other, both which contribute to 
the progreflive motion of the bird and the clofenefs of the wing. 
The manner in which moft birds avail themfelves of thefe is firft 
thus : they quit the earth with a bound, in order to have room 


for flapping with the wing ; when they have room for this, they 
ftrike the body of air beneath the wing with a violent motion, and 
with the whole under-furface of the fame ; but then, to avoid 
Uniting the air with equal violence on the upper fide as they rife, 
the wing is inftantly contracted ; fo that the animal rifes by the 
impulfe till it fpreads the wing for a fecond blow. For this rea- 
fon, we always fee birds choofe to rife againft the wind, becaufe 
they have thus a greater body of air on the under than the upper 
fide of the wing. For thefe reafons alfo large fowls do not rife 
eafily, both becaufe they have not fufficient room at firft for the 
motion of their wings, and becaufe the body of air does not lie fp 
directly under the wing as they rife. 

In order to move the wings, all birds are furnimed with two 
very ftrorig pectoral mufcles, which lie on each fide of the breaft- 
bone. The pectoral mufcles of quadrupeds are trifling in com- 
parifon to thofe of birds. In quadrupeds, as well as in man, 
the mufcles which move the thighs and hinder parts of the body 
are by far the ftrongeft, while thofe of the arms are feeble ; but 
in birds, which make ufe of their wings, the contrary obtains ; the 
pectoral mufcles, that move the wings or arms, are of enormous 
ftrength, while thofe of the thighs are weak and flender. By 
means of thefe, a bird can move its wings with a degree of 
ftrength, which, when compared to the animal's fize, is almoft 
incredible. The flap of a fwan's wing would break a man's leg; 
and a fimilar blow from an eagle has been known to lay a man 
dead in an inftant. Such, confequently, is the force of the wing, 
and fuch its lightnefs, as to be inimitable by art. No machines 
that human ikill can contrive, are capable of giving fuch force to 
fo light an apparatus. The art of flying, therefore, that has fa 
often and fo fruitlefsly been fought after, muft, it is feared, for 
ever be unattainable ; fmce as man increafes the force of his fly- 
ing machine, he muft be obliged to increafe its weight alfo. 

In all birds, except nocturnal ones, the head is fmaller, and 
bears lefs proportion to the body than in quadrupeds, that it may 
more readily divide the air in flying, and make way for the body, 
fo as to render its paflage more eafy. Their eyes alfo are more 
flat and deprefled than in quadrupeds ; a circle of fmall plates of 
bone, placed fcale wife, under the outer coat of the organ, encom- 


pafTes the pupil on each fide, to ftrengthen and defend it from in- 
juries. Befide this, birds have a kind of fkin, called the nicti- 
tating membrane, with which, like a veil, they can at pleafure 
cover their eyes, though their eyelids continue open. This mem- 
brane takes its rife from the greater or more obtufe corner of the 
eye, and ferves to wipe, cleanfc, and probably to moiften its 
furfhce. The eyes, though they outwardly appear but fmall, 
yet feparately, each almoft equals the brain ; whereas in man 
the brain is more than twenty times larger than the orbit of the 
eye. Nor is this organ in birds lefs adapted for vifion by a parti- 
cular expanfion of" the optic nerve, which renders 'the impreffions 
of external objects more vivid and diftincl:. 

From this conformation of the eye it follows, that the fenfe of 
feeing in birds is infinitely fuperior to that of other animals. In- 
deed, this piercing fight feems necefiary to the creature's fupport 
and fafety. Were this organ blunter, from the rapidity of the 
bird's motion, it would be apt to ftrike againft every object in its 
way ; and it could fcarcely find fubfiftence unlefs pofTefled of a 
power to difcern its food from above with aftomming fagacity. 
An hawk, for inftance, perceives a lark at a diftance which nei- 
ther men nor dogs could fpy ; a kite, from an almoft impercepti- 
ble height in the clouds, darts down on its prey with the moft 
unerring aim. The fight of birds, therefore, exceeds what we 
know in moft other animals, and excels them both in ftrength 
and precifion. 

All birds want the external ear ftanding out from the head ; 
they are only furnifhed with holes that convey founds to the audi- 
tory canal. It is true, indeed, that the horned owl, and one or 
two more birds, feem to have external ears; but what bears 
that refemblance are only feathers flicking out on each fide of the 
head, but no way necefTary to the fenfe of hearing. It is proba- 
ble, however, that the feathers encompaffing the ear-holes in 
birds fupply the defect of the exterior ear, and collect founds to 
be tranfmitted to the internal fenfory. The extreme delicacy of 
this organ is eafily proved by the readinefs with which birds learn 
tunes, or repeat words, and the great exactnefs of their pronun- 


The fenfe of fmelling Teems not lefs vivid in the generality of 
birds. Many of them wind their prey at imrnenfe diftance; 
whilft others are equally protected by this fenfe againft their infi- 
dious purfuers. In decoys, where ducks are caught, the meri 
who attend them univerfally keep a piece of turf burning near 
their mouths, upon which they breathe, left the fowl fhould 
imell them, and consequently fly away. The univerfality of 
this practice puts the rieceffity of it beyond a doubt, and proves 
the extreme delicacy of the fenfe of fmelling, at leaft in this fpe- 
cies of the feathered creation* 

Next to the parts for flight, let us view the legs and feet mi- 
niftering to motion. They are both made light for the eafier: 
tranfportation through the air. The toes in fome are webbed j 
to fit them for the waters ; in others they are feparate, for the 
better holding objects, or clinging to trees for fafety^ Such as 
have long legs, have alfo long necks^ as otherwife they would be 
incapable of gathering up their food, either by land or water. 
But it does not hold, however^ that thofe which have long necks, 
ihould have long legs, fmce we fee that fwans and geefe, whofe 
necks are extremely long, have very fhort legs, and thefe chiefly 
employed in fwimming. 

Thus every external part hitherto noticed appears adapted to 
the life and fituation of the animal; nor are the inward parts, 
though lefs immediately appropriated to flight, lefs necefFary to 
fafetVi The bones of every part of the body are extremely light 
and thin; and all the mufcles, except that immediately moving 
the wings, extremely flight and feeble. The tail, which is com- 
pofed of quill feathers, ferves to counterbalance the head and 
neck ; it guides the animaPs flight like a rudder, and greatly 
aflifts it either in its afcent, or when defcending. 

If we go on to examine birds internally, we .{hall find the 
fame wonderful conformation fitting them for a life in air, and in- 
creafing the furface by diminiming the folidity. In the firft 
place, their lungs, which are commonly called the fole, flick faft 
to the fides of the ribs and back, and can be very little dilated or 
contracted. But to make up for this, which might impede their 
breathing, the ends of the branches of the windpipe open into 



them, while thefe have openings into the cavity of the belly, and 
convey the air drawn in by breathing into certain receptacles like 
bladders, running along the length of the whole body. Nor are 
thefe openings obfcure, or difficult to be difcerned ; for a probe 
thrufl into the lungs of a fowl, will eafily find a paffage into the 
belly; and air blown into the wind-pipe will be feen to diftend 
the animal's body like a bladder. In quadrupeds this paffage 
is {topped by the midriff; but in fowls the communication is ob- 
vious ; and confequently they have a much greater facility of 
taking a long and large infpiration. It is fometimes alfo feen 
that the wind -pipe makes many convolutions within the body of 
the bird,, and it" is then called the labyrinth ; but of what ufe 
thefe convolutions are, or why the wind-pipe (hould make fo ma- 
ny turnings within the body of fome birds, is a difficulty for 
which no naturalift has been able to account. 

This difference of the wind-pipe often obtains in animals that 
to all appearance are of the fame fpecies. Thus in the tame fwan, 
the wind-pipe makes but a ftraight paffage into the lungs ; while 
in the wild fwan, which, to all external appearance, feems the fame 
animal, the wind-pipe pierces through the breaft-bone, and 
there has feveral turnings, before it comes out again and goes to 
enter the lungs. It is not to form the voice that thefe turnings 
are found, fince the fowls that are without them are vocal; and 
thofe, particularly the bird juft now mentioned, that have them, 
are filent. Whence, therefore, fome birds derive that loud and 
various modulation in their warblings, is not eafily to be account- 
ed for ; at leaf}, the knife of the anatomift goes but a fhort way 
in the investigation. All we are certain of, is, that birds have 
much louder voices, in refpecl: to their bulk, than animals of any 
other kind j for the bellowing of an ox is not louder than the 
(cream of a peacock. 

In thefe particulars, birds pretty much referable each other in 
their internal conformation ; but there are fome varieties which 
we fhould more attentively obferve. All birds have, properly 
fpeaking, but one ftomach ; but this is very different indifferent 
kinds. In all the rapacious kinds that live upon animal food, as 
^ell as in fome gf the fifh-feeding tribe, the ftomach is peculiarly 


formed. The oefophagus, or gullet, * n them is found replete 
with glandulous bodies, which ferve to dilate and macerate the 
food as it pafTes into the ftomach, which is always very large in 
proportion to the fize of the bird, and generally wrapped round 
with fat, in order to increafe its warmth and powers of digeftion. 

Granivorous birds, or fuch as lire upon fruits, corn, and 
other vegetables, have their inteftines differently formed from 
thofe of the rapacious kind. Their gullet dilates juft above the 
breaft-bone, and forms itfelf into a pouch or bag, called the crop. 
This is replete with falivary glands, which ferve to moiften and 
foften the grain and other food which it contains. Thefe glands 
are very numerous, with longitudinal openings, which emit a 
whitifh and a vifcous fubftance. After the dry food of the bird 
has been macerated for a convenient time, it then pa/Fes into the 
belly, where, inftead of a foft moift ftomach, as in the rapacious 
kinds, it is ground between two pair of mufcles, commonly cal- 
led the gizzard, covered on the infide with a ftony ridgy coat, and 
almoft cartilaginous. Thefe coats, rubbing againft each other, 
are capable of bruifmg and attenuating the hardeft fubftances, 
their action being often compared to that of the grinding-teeth in 
man and other animals. Thus the organs of digeftion are in a 
manner reverfed in birds. Beafts grind their food with their 
teeth, and then it pafies into the ftomach, where it is foftened 
and dio-efted. On the contrary, birds of this fort firft macerate 
and foften it in the crop, and then it is ground and comminuted 
in the ftomach or gizzard. Birds are alfo careful to pick up 
fand, gravel, and other hard fubftances, not to grind their food, 
as has been fuppofed, but to prevent the too violent adion of the 
coats of the ftomach againft each other, 

Moft birds have two appendices or blind guts, which in qua- 
drupeds are always found fingle. Among fuch birds as are thus 
fupplied, all carnivorous fowl, and all birds of the fparrow kind, 
have very fmall and fhort ones : water-fowl, and birds of the 
poultry kind, the longeft of all. There is ftill another appendix 
obfervable in the inteftines of birds, refembling a little worm, 
which is nothing more than the remainder of that paflage by which 
the 'yolk was conveyed into the guts of the young chicken, wkile 
yet in the egg and under incubation. 


The outlet of that dut which conveys the bile into the intef- 
tines is, in moft birds, a great way diftant from the ftomachj 
which may arife from the danger there would be of the bile re- 
gurgitating into the ftomach in their various rapid motions, as 
\ve fee in men at fea ; wherefore their biliary dud is fo contriv- 
,ed, that this regurgitation cannot take place* 

All birds, though they want a bladder for urine, have large 
jkidneys and ureters, by which this fecretion is made, and carried 
away by one common canal. , cc Birds," fays Harvey, " as 
<c well as ferpents, which have fpongy lungs, make but little 
cc water, becaufe they drink but little. They, therefore, have no 
<c need of a bladder; but their urine diftils down into the com- 
*' mon canal, defigned for receiving the other excrements of the 
cc body. The urine of birds differs from that of other animals ; 
" for, as there are ufually in urine two parts, one more ferus and 
<c liquid, the other more thick and grofs, which fub fides to the 
ce bottom ; in birds, this part is moft abundant, and is diftin- 
<c guiflied from the reft by its white or filver colour. This part 
<c is found not only in the whole inteftinal canal, but is feen alfo 
<c in the whole channel of the ureters, which may be diftinguifhed 
<c from the coats of the kidneys by their whitenefs. This milky 
<{ fubftance they have in greater plenty than the more thin and 
cc ferous part ; and it is of a middle confidence, between limpid 
c< urine and the grofier parts of the faeces. In palling through 
* c the ureters, it refembles milk curdled or lightly condenfed ; 
* c and, being caft forth eafily, congeals into a chalky cruft." 

From this fimple conformation of the animal it mould f:em 
that birds are fubjecT: to few difeafes : and, in fact, they have but 
few. There is one, however, which they are fubject to, from 
which quadrupeds are in a great meafure exempt: this is the 
annual molting which they fuffer; for all birds v/hatfoever obtain 
2 new covering of feathers once a year, and caft the old. During 
the molting feafon, they ever appear difordered; thofe moft re- 
inarkable for their courage then Ibfe all their fiercenefs ; and fuch 
as are of a weakly conftitution often expire under this natural 
Operation. No feeding can maintain their ftrength: they alj 
ceafe to breed at this feafon , that murifhrnent which goes to tlis 


production of the young is wholly abforbed by the demand requir- 
ed for fupplying the nafcent plumage. 

This molting, however, may be artificially accelerated ; and 
thofe who have the management of finging birds frequently put 
their fecret in practice. They enclofe the bird in a dark cage, 
where they keep it exceflively warm, and throw the poor little 
animal into an artificial fever; this produces the molt; his old 
feathers fall before their time, and a new fet take place, more 
brilliant and beautiful than the former. They add, that it mends 
the bird's finging, and increafes its vivacity; but it muft not be 
concealed, that fcarce one bird in three furvives the operation. 

The manner in which nature performs this operation of molt- 
ing, is thus : the quill or feather, when firft protruded from the 
fkin and come to its full fize, grows harder as it grows older, 
and receives a kind of periofteum or fkin round the fhaft by which 
it feems attached to the animal. In proportion as the fkin grows 
older, its fides or the bony pen part, thicken; but its whole dia- 
meter fhrinks and decreafes. Thus, by the thickening of its 
fides, all nourifliment from the body becomes more fparing ; and, 
by the decreafe of its diameter, it becomes more loofely fixed in 
its focket, till at length it falls out. In the mean time, the rudi- 
ments of an incipient quill are beginning below. The fkin 
forms itfelf into a little bag, which is fed from the body by a 
fmall vein and artery, and which every day increafes in fize till 
it is protruded. While the one end vegetates into the beard or 
vane of the feather, that part attached to the fkin is ftill foft, and 
receives a conftant fupply of nourifhment, which is diffufed 
through the body of the quill by that little light fubilance which 
we always find within when we make a pen. This fubftance, 
which as yet has received no name that I know of, ferves the 
growing quill as the umbilical artery does an infant in the womb, 
by fupplying it with nourifhment, over the whole frame. When, 
however, the quill is come to its full growth, and requires no 
further nourifhment, the vein and artery become lefs and lefs, 
till at lafl the little opening by which they communicated with 
the quill becomes wholly obi iterated; and the quill thus deprived 
continues in its focket for fome months, till in the end it fhrinks, 


and leaves room for a repetition of the fame procefs of nature a 5 

The molting feafon commonly obtains from the end of fum- 
sner to the middle of autumn. The bird continues to ftruggle 
with this malady during the winter, and Nature has kindly 
provided, that when there are the feweft provifions, then the 
animal's appetite fhall be leaft craving. At the beginning of 
fyringy when food begins again to be plenty, the animal's ftrength 
and vigour return. It is then the abundance of provifions, aided 
by the mildnefs of the feafon, incite it to love, and all Natur^ 
/bsms teeming with life, and difpofed to continue it. 

C H A P. II. 


Of the Generation, Neftlingj and Incubation of Birds, 

f 1T\ H E return of fpring is the beginning of pleafure. Thofe 
JL vital fpirits which feemed locked up during the winter t 
then begin to expand ; vegetables and infects fupply abundance 
of food; and the bird having more than a fufficiency for. its own 
iubfiftence, is impelled to transfufe life as well as to maintain it. 
Thofc warblings which had been humed during the colder feafon?, 
now begin to animate the fields ; every grove and bufli refounds 
with the challenge of anger, or the call of allurement. This de r 
lightful concert of the grove, which is much admired by man, is 
no way ftudied for his amufement : it is ufirally the call of the 
male to the femal?; his efforts to footh her during the times of 
incubation : ''-or it is a challenge between two males, for the affec- 
tions of fome common favourite. 

It is by this call that birds begin to pair at the approach of 
fpring, and provide for the fupport of a future progeny. The 
Joudeft notes arc ufually from the male; while the hen feldom 
cxprefTes her confent, but in a fhort, interrupted twittering. 
This compact, at Icaft for the fcafon, holds with unbroken faith: 
many birds live with inviolable fidelity together for a conftancy $ 


and when one dies, the' other is always feen to {hare the fame 
fate foon after. We mufr. not take our idea of the conjugal fide- 
lity of birds from obferving the poultry in our yards, whcfe free- 
dom is abridged, and whofe manners are totally corrupted by 
fiavery. We mufr. look for it in our fields and our foreits, where 
gature continues in unadulterated fimplicity ; where the number 
of males is generally equal to that of females ; and where every 
little animal feems prouder of his progeny than pleafed with his 
mate. Were it pofnbte to compare fenfations, the male of all 
wild birds feems as happy in the young brood as the female ; and 
all his former carefles, all his foothing melodies, feem only aim- 
ed at that important occafion when they are both to become pa- 
rents, and to educate a progeny of their own producing. Ths 
pleafures of love appear dull in their effects, when compared' to> 
the interval immediately after the exclufion of their young. They 
both feem, at that feafon, tranfported with pleafure ; every action 
teftifies their pride, their importance, and tender fclicitude. 

When thebufinefs of fecundation is performed^ the female then 
begins to lay. Such eggs as have been impregnated by the cock 
are prolific; and fuch as have not (for fhe lays often without any 
congrefs whatfoever) continue barren, and are only addled by- 
incubation. Previous, however, to laying, the work of neil:- 
ling becomes the common care ; and this is performed with no 
fmall degree of afliduity and apparent defign. It has been af- 
ferted, that birds of one kind always make their nefts in the fame 
manner, and of the fame materials ; but the truth is 5 that the/ 
vary this as the materials, places, or climates happen to differ. 
The red-breaft, in fome parts of England, makes its nefr. witii 
oak leaves, where they are in greatest plenty ; in other parts- 
with mofs and hair. Some birds, that with us make a very 
warm neft, are lefs felicitous in the tropical climates, where th^ 
heat of the weather promotes the bufmefs of incubation. In ge- 
neral, however, every fpecies of birds has a peculiar architecl:uro 
of its own ; and this adapted to the number of eggs, the tempe- 
rature of the climate, or the refpe6live heat of the little animal^ 
own body. Where the eggs are numerous, it is then incumbent: 
to make the neft warm, that the animal heat may be equallv 
difFufed to them all* Thus the wren, and all the frnall b : 


make tlrj neft very warm; for having many eggs, it is requiiit? 
to diftribute warmth to them in common : on the contrary, the 
plover, that has but two eggs, the eagle, and the crow,- are not 
fo folicitous in this refpecl ; as their bodies are capable of being 
applied to the fmall number upon which they fit. With regard 
to climate, water-fowl, that with us make but a very (lovenly 
neft, are much more exact in this particular, in the colder regi- 
ons of the north. They there take every precaution to make it 
warm ; and forne kinds ftrip the down from their breafts, to line 
it with greater fecurity. 

In general, however, every bird reforts to hatch in thofe cli- 
mates and places where its food is found in greateft plenty ; and 
always at that feafon when provifions are in the greateft abund- 
ance. The large birds, and thofe of the aquatic kinds, choofe 
places as remote from man as poffible, as their food is in genera! 
different from that which is cultivated by human labour. Some 
birds, which have only the ferpent to fear, build their nefts de- 
pending from the end of a fmall bough, and form the entrance 
from below ; being thus fecured either from the ferpent or the 
monkey tribes. But all the little birds which live upon fruits 
and corn, and that are too often unwelcome intruders upon the 
fruits of human indufhy, in making their nefts, ufe every pre- 
caution to conceal them from man. On the other hand, the great 
birds, remote from human fociety, ufe every precaution to render 
theirs inacceflible to wild beafts or vermin. 

Nothing can exceed the patience of birds while hatching ; nei- 
ther the calls of hunger, nor the near approach of danger can 
drive them from the neft. They are often fat upon beginning to 
fit, yet before incubation is over, the female is ufually wafted to 
fkin and bone. Ravens and crows, while the females are fitting, 
take care to provide them with food ; and this in great abundance. 
But it is different with moft of the fmaller kinds : during the 
whole time the male fits near his mate upon fbme tree, and 
foothes her by his finging ; and often when fhe is tired, takes her 
jplace, and patiently continues upon the neft till fhe returns. 
Sometimes, however, the eggs acquire a degree of heat too muck 
fcr the purpofes of hatching ; in fuch cafes, the hen leaves them 


to cool a little ; and then returns to fit, with her ufual perfeve- 
rance and pleafure. 

So great is the power of infrm&, in animals of this clafs, that 
they feem driven from one appetite to another, and continue al- 
rnoft paflive under its influence. Reafon we cannot call it, fmce 
the firft dictates of that principle would be felf-prefervation: 
" Take a brute," fays Addifon, u out of his inftinft, and you 
xc find him wholly deprived of understanding. With what cau- 
u tion," continues he, a does the hen provide herfelf a neil in 
" places unfrequented, and free from noife and difturbance ! When 
" fhe has laid her eggs in fuch a manner that fhe can cover them, 
" what care does fhe take in turning them frequently, that all 
" parts may partake of the vital warmth ! When fhe leaves 
" them to provide for her necefTary fuftenance, how punftually 
" does fhe return before they have time to cool, and become in- 
" capable of producing an animal I In the fummer you fee her 
u giving herfelf greater freedoms, and quitting her care for above 
u two hours together: but in winter, when the rigour of the 
* c feafon would chill the principles of life, and deftroy the young 
X one, flie grows more affi'duous in her attendance, and ftays 
" away but half the time. When the birth approaches, with how 
" much nicety and attention does fhe help the chick to break the 
" prifon ! not to take notice of her covering it from the injuries 
u of the weather, providing it with proper nourifhment, and 
" teaching it to help itfelf ; nor to mention her forfaking the neft, 
" if after the ufual time of reckoning, the young one does not 
IC make its appearance. A chymical operation could not be fol- 
" lowed with greater art or diligence than is feen In the hatching 
" a chick, though there are many birds that fhew an infinitely 
4< greater fagacity t yet at the fame time the hen, that has all this 
" fbeming ingenuity (which is indeed abfolutely necefTary for the 
" propagation of the fpecies) confidered in other refpecSts, is with- 
" out the leaft glimmerings of thought or common fenfe: fhe 
'' miftakes a piece of chalk for an egg, and fits upon it in the 
" fame manner j flie is infenfible of any increafe or diminution 
" in the number of thofe fhe lays; fhe does not diftinguifh be- 
' c tween her own, and thofe of another fpecies ; and when the 



c birth appears of ever fo different a bird, will cherifh it for her 
own. An hen followed by a brood of ducks, {hall ftand af- 
." frighted at the edge of the pond, trembling for the fate of her 
cc young, which (he fees venturing into fo dangerous an element, 
< c As the different principle which a6r.s in thefe different animals 
" cannot be termed reafon, fo when we call it inftincr., we mean 
cc fomething we have no knowledge of. It appears to me the 
<c immediate direction of Providence ; and fuch an operation of 
5 C the Supreme Being as that which determines all the portions of 
" matter to their proper centres," 

The production of the young, as was faid, feems to be the 
great xra of a bird ? s happinefs. Nothing can at that time ex- 
ceed its fpirit and induftry; the moft timid becomes courageous 
in the defence of its young. Birds of the rapacious kind, at this 
feafon, become more than ufually fierce and active. They carry 
their prey, yet throbbing witn life, to the neft, and early accuftom 
their young to habits of {laughter and cruelty. Nor are thofe of 
a milder nature lefs bufily employed ; the little birds then dif- 
continue their fmging, taken up with more important purfuits 
of common fubfiftence. 

While the young are yet unfledged, and continue in the neft, 
the old ones take care to provide them with a regular fupply; 
and, left one fhould take all nourifhment from the reft, they feed 
each of the young in their turn. If they perceive that man has 
been bufy with their neft, or has handled the little ones, they 
abandon the place by night, and provide their brood a more fecure, 
though lefs commodious retreat. When the whole family is fully 
plumed, and capable of avoiding danger by flight, they are then 
led forth when the weather is fine, and taught the paternal art of 
providing for their fubfiftence. They are led to the places 
where their, food lies; they are fhewn the method of difccverino- 
r carrying it away ; and then led back to the neft, for a day or 
two longer. At length, when they are completely qualified to 
fliift for themfelves, the old ones take them abroad, and leading 
them to' the accuftomed places, forfake them for the laft time ; 
and all future connection is ever at an end. 

Thofe birds which are hatched and fent out earlieft in the fea- 
fon are the moft ftrong and vigorous 5 thofe, on the other hand> 


that have been delayed until the midft of fummer, are more 
feeble and tender, and fometimes incapable of fuftaining the ri- 
gours of the enfuing winter. Birds themfelves feem ferifible of 
this difference, and endeavour to produce early in the fpring. If, 
however, their efforts are obftrufted by having their nefts rob- 
bed, or fome iimilar accident, they ftill perfevere in their efforts 
for a progeny; and it often happens that fome are thus retarded 
until the midft of winter. What number of eggs any bird cart 
lay in the courfe of a feafon is not afcertained ; but this is true, 
that fuch as would have laid but two or three at the moft, if their 
nefts be robbed, or their eggs ftolen, will lay above ten or twelve. 
A common hen, if moderately fed, will lay above an hundred eggs 
from the beginning of fpring to the latter end of autumn. In ge- 
neral, however, it obtains, that the fiiialleft and weakeft animals 
are the moft prolific, while the ftrong and rapacious are abridged 
by fterility. Thus, fuch kinds as are eafily deftroyed, are as rea- 
dily repaired; and Nature, where (he has denied the power of 
refinance, has compenfated by the fertility attending procreation. 

Birds in general, though they have fo much to fear from man 
and each other, are feldom feared away from their ufual haunts. 
Although they be fo perfectly formed for a wandering life, and are 
fuppTied with powers to fatisfy all their appetites, though ever fo 
remote from the object, though they are fo well fitted for chang- 
ing place with eafe and rapidity, yet the greateft number remain 
contented in the diftrifts where they have been bred, and by no 
means exert their defires in proportion to their endowments. 
The rook, if undifturbed, never defires to leave his native grove 5 
the black-bird ftill frequents its accuftomed hedge ; and the red- 
breaft, though feemingly mild, claims a certain diftric~r, frorri 
whence he feldom moves, but drives out every one of the fame 
fpecies from thence without pity. They are excited to migration 
by rio other motives but thofe of fear, climate, or hunger. It muft 
be from one of thefe powerful motives that the birds, which arc 
called birds of pafiage, every year forfake us for fome time, and 
make their regular and expected returns. 

Nothing has more employed the curiofity of mankind than 
thefe annual emigrations ; and yet fewfubjecl:s continues fo much 
Involved in darkneis. It is generally believed, that the caufe of 


their retreat from thefe parts of Europe is either a fcarcity of food 
at certain feafons, or the want of a fecure afylum from the perfe- 
cution of man during the timeofcourtfhip and bringing up their 
young. Thus the ftarling, in Sweden, at the approach of winter s 
finding fubfiftence no longer in that kingdom, defcends every 
year into Germany ; and the hen chaffinches of the fame country 
are feen every year to fly through Holland in large flocks, to 
pafs the winter in a milder climate. Others, with a more daring 
fpirit, prepare for journies that might intimidate even human per- 
feverance. Thus the quails in fpring forfake the burning heats 
of Africa for the milder fun of Europe ; and, when they have paf- 
fed the fummer with us, fteer their flight back to enjoy in Egypt 
the temperate air, which then begins to be delightful. This with 
them fecms a preconcerted undertaking. They unite together in 
fome open place, for fbme days before their departure, and, by an 
odd kind of chattering, feem to debate on the method to proceed . 
When their plan is refolved upon, they all take flight together, 
and often appear in fuch numbers, that, to mariners at fea, they 
ieem like a cloud that refts upon the^ horizon. The bolder!, 
ftrongefr, and by far the greateft number, make good their inten- 
tion; but many there are who, not well apprized of their own 
force for the undertaking, grow weary in the way, and, quite 
fpent by the fatigues of their flight, drop down into the fea, and 
fometimes upon deck, thus becoming an eafy prey to the mariner. 

Of the vafl: quantity of water-fowl that frequent our fhores, 
it is amazing to reflect how few are known to breed here. The 
caufe that principally urges them to leave this country feemsnot 
to be merely the want of food, but the defire of a fecure retreat. 
Our country is too populous for birds fo fhy and timid as the 
greateft number of thefe are. When great part of our ifland 
was a mere wafte, an uncultivated tract of woods and marfhes, 
many fpecies of birds which now migrate remained with ^ 
throughout the year. The great heron and the crane, that ha e 
now forfaken this country, in former times bred familiarly in our 
marfhes, and feemed to animate pur fens. Their nefts, like thofs 
of moft cloven-footed water-fowl, were built on the ground, and 
expofed to every invader. But as rural ceconomy encreafed, 
thefe animals were more and more difturbcd. Before they had 


little to fear, as the furrounding marfh defended them from all the 
carnivorous quadrupeds, and their own ftrength from birds of 
prey; but upon the intrufion of man, and by a long feries of 
alarms, they have at length been obliged to feek, during the fum- 
mer, fome lonely habitation at a fafe diftance from every deftroycr. 

Of the numerous tribes of the duck kind, we know of no more 
than five that breed here; the tame fwan, the tame goofe, the 
fheldrake, the eider duck, and a few of the wild ducks. The 
reft contribute to form that amazing multitude of water-fowl 
which annually repair to the dreary lakes and ddarts of Lapland 
from the more fouthern countries of Europe. In thofe extenfive 
and folitary retreats, they perform the duties of incubation and 
nutrition in full fecurity. There are few of this kind that may 
not be traced to the northern defer ts, to countries of lakes, ri- 
vers, fwamps, and mountains, covered with thick and gloomy 
forefts, that afford fhelter during fummer to the timid animals, 
who live there in undifturbed fecurity. In thofe regions, from 
the thicknefs of the forefts the ground remains moift and penetra- 
ble during the fummer feafon ; the woodcock, the fnipe, and other 
(lender billed birds, can there feed at eafe ; while the web-footed 
birds find more than fufficient plenty of food from the number of 
infe&s, which fwarm there to an incredible degree. The days 
there are long ; and the beautiful meteorous nights afford them 
every opportunity of collecting fo minute a food, which is proba- 
bly of all others the moft grateful. We are not to be aftonilh- 
ed, therefore, at the amazing numbers of fowl that defcend from 
thefe regions at the approach of winter; numbers to which the 
army of Xerxes was but trifling in companion; and which Lin- 
naeus has obferved for eight whole days and nights to cover the 
furface of the river Calix. 

This migration from the north ufually begins in September, 
when they quit their retreats, and difperfe themfelves all over 
the fouthern parts of Europe. It is not unpleafmg to obferve 
the order of their flight ; they generally range themfelves in a 
long line, or they fometimes make their march angularly, two 
lines uniting in the centre like the letter V reverted. The bird 
which leads at the point feems to cleave the air, to facilitate the 


paffage for thofe \vhich are to follow. When fatigued with this 
laborious ftation, it falls back into one of the wings of the file., 
while another takes its place. With us they make their appear- 
ance about the beginning of October, circulate firft round our 
ihores, and, when compelled by fevere froft, betake themfelves 
to our lakes and rivers. Some, indeed, of the web-footed fowl, 
of hardier conftitutions than the reft, abide the rigours of their 
northern climate the whole winter; but when the cold reigns 
there with more than ufual feverity, they are obliged to feek for 
more fouthern fides. They then repair with the reft for fhelter 
to thefe kingdoms; fo that the diver, the wild fwan, and the 
fwallow-tailed fheldrake, vifit our coafts but feldom, and that 
only when compelled by the feverity of their winters at home. 

It has been often a fubjeft of aftonifhment, how animals to all 
appearance fo dull and irrational ftiould perform fuch long jour- 
nies fliould know whither to fteer, and when to fet out upon 
fuch a o-reat undertaking. It is probable that the fame inftincSt 
which governs all their other actions operates alfo here. They 
rather follow the weather than the country ; they fteer only from 
colder or warmer climates into thofc of an oppofite nature ; and, 
finding the variations of the air as they proceed in their favour, 
goon till they find land to repofe on. It cannot be fuppofed that 
they have any memory of the country where they might have {pent 
a former winter ; it cannot be fuppofed that they fee the country 
to which they travel from'their height in the air; fince, though 
they mounted for miles, the convexity of the globe would inter- 
cept their view; it muft therefore only be, that they go on as they 
continue to perceive the atmofphere more fuitable to their prefent 
wants and difpofitions. 

All this feems to be pretty plain ; but there is a circumftance 
attending the migration of {"wallows which wraps this fubjecfr in 
great obfcurity. It is agreed on all hands, that they are feen 
migrating into warmer climates, and that in amazing numbers, 
at the approach of the European winter. Their return in Eu- 
rope is alfo well attefted, about the beginning of fummer; but 
we have another account, which ferves to prove, that numbers 
of them continue torpid here during the winter; and, like bats-, 


*;aake their retreat into old walls, the hollow of trees, or even 
fink into the deepeft lakes, and find fecurity for the winter fea- 
Ipn, by remaining there in clutters at the bottom. However 
this latter circumftance may be, their retreat into old walls, is 
too well authenticated to remain a doubt at prefent. The dif- 
ficulty, therefore, is to account for this difference in thefe ani- 
mals thus varioufly preparing to encounter the winter. It was 
fuppofed, that in fome of them, the blood might lofe its motion 
by the cold, and that thus they were rendered torpid by the feve- 
rity of the feafon; but mr. Buffbn having placed many of this 
tribe in an ice-houfe, found that the fame cold by which their 
blood was congealed was fatal to the animal; it remains, there- 
fore, a doubt to this hour, whether there may not be a fpscies of 
fwallows, to all external appearance like the reft, but differently 
formed within, fo as to fit them for a ftate of infenfibility during 
the winter here. It was fuggefted, indeed, that the fwallows 
found thus torpid, were fuch only as were too weak to undertake 
the migration, or were hatched too late to join the general con- 
voy; but it was upon thefe that mr. Buffbn tried his experiment; 
it was thefe that died under the operation. 

Thus there are fome birds which by migrating make an habi- 
tation of every part of the earth ; but in general every climate 
has birds peculiar to itfelf. The feathered inhabitants of the 
temperate zone are but little remarkable for the beauty of their 
plumage ; but then the finaller kinds make up for this defect by 
the melody of their voices. The birds of the torrid zone are 
very bright and vivid in their colours; but they have fcreaming 
voices, or are totally filent. The frigid zone, on the other hand, 
where the feas abound with fifli, are ftcckcd with birds of the 
aquatic kind, in much greater plenty than in Europe; and thefe 
are generally cloathed with a warmer coat of feathers ; or they 
have large quantities of fat lying underneath the fkin, which 
ferves to defend them from the rigours of the climate. 

In all countries, however, birds are a more long-lived clafs of 
animals than the quadrupeds or infects of the fame climate. 
The life of man himfelf is but fliort, when compared to what 
fome of them enjoy. It is iid that fwans have been known to 
live three hundred years : geefe are often fern to live fourfcore: 


while linnets, and other little birds, though imprifoned in cages, 
are often found to reach fourteen or fifteen. How birds, whofe 
age of perfection is much more early than that of quadrupeds, 
fhould yet live comparatively fo much longer, is not eafily to 
be accounted for: perhaps, as their bones are lighter, and more 
porous than thole of quadrupeds, there are fewer obftruclions in 
the, animal machine; and Nature, thus finding more room for 
the operations of life, it is carried on to a greater extent. . 

All birds in general are lefs than quadrupeds ; that is, the 
greateft of one clafs far furpafs the greateft of the other in mag- 
nitude. The oft-rich, which is the greateft of birds, bears no 
proportion to the elephant; and the fmalleft humming -bird, 
which is the leaft of the clafs, is ftill far more minute than the 
moufe. In thefe the extremities of Nature are plainly difcerna- 
ble ; and in forming them (he appears to have been doubtful in her 
operations : the oflrich, feemingly covered with hair, and inca- 
pable of flight, making near approaches to the quadruped clafs j 
while the humming-bird, of the fize of an humble-bee, and with 
a fluttering motion, feems nearly allied to the infect, 

Thefe extremities of this clafs are rather objects of human 
curiofity than utility: it is the middle order pf birds which man 
has taken care to propagate and maintain. Of thofe which he 
has taken under his protection., and which a,dminifter to his plea- 
fures or neceffities, the greateft number feem creatures of his for- 
mation. The variety of climates to which he configns them, 
the food with which hefupplies them, and the purpofes for which 
he employs them, produce amazing varieties, both in their colours, 
fhape, magnitude, and the tafte of their flefh. Wild birds are, for 
themoft part, of the lame magnitude and fhape ; they ftill keep 
the prints of primaeval nature ftrong npon them : except in a few 
they generally maintain their very colour: but it is otherwife 
with domeftic animals; they change at the will of man; of the 
tami pigeoiij for inftance, it is faid that they can be bred to* a 

As we are thus capable of influencing their form and colour, 
fo alfo it is frequent to fee equal inftances of our influencing 
their habitudes, appetites and paffion?. The cock, for inf 


is artificially formed into that courage and activity which he is 
&en to poffefs ; and many birds teftify a ftrong attachment to 
the hand that feeds them : how far they are capable of inftruc- 
tion, is manifeft to thofe who have the care of hawks. But a 
ftill more furprizing inftance of this, was feen fome time ago 
in London : a canat-y bird was taught to pick up the letters of 
the alphabet, at the word of command, fo as to fpell any per- 
fon's name in company: and this the little animal did by mo- 
tions from its matter, which were imperceptible to every other 
fpec~tator. Upon the whole, however, they are inferior to qua- 
drupeds in docility; and feem more mechanically impelled by 
all the power of initincT:. 


Of the Div'ifion of Birds. 

THOUGH birds are fitted for fporting in air, yet as 
they find their food upon the furface of the jearth, there 
feems a variety equal to the different aliments with which it 
tends to fupply them. The flat and burning defert, the rocky 
cliff, the extenfive fen, the flormy ocean, as well as the plea- 
fing landfcape, have all their peculiar inhabitants. The moil 
obvious difiindion, therefore* of birds, is into thofe that live by 
Jand, and thofe that live by water, or, in other words, into land 
birds and water fowl. 

It is no difficult matter to diftinguifh land from water fowl, 
by the legs and toes. All land birds have their toes divided* 
without any membrane or web between them ; and their legs 
and feet ferve them for the purpofes of running, grafping, or 
climbing. On the other hand, water fowl have their legs and 
feet formed for the purpofes of wading in water^ or fwimming 
on its furface. In thofe that wade, the legs are ufually long and 
naked ; in thofe that fwim, the toes are webbed together, as we 
ice in the feet of a goofe, which ferve, like oars, to drive them 
forward with greater velocity. The formation, therefore, of land 

VOL. Ill, D 


and water fowl, is as uiftincl as their habits; and Nature her-* 
telf feems to offer us this obvious diftribution, in methodizing 
animals of the feathered creation. 

However, a diftin&ion fo comprehenfi ve goes but a fhort way 
in illuftrating the different tribes of fj numerous a clafs. The 
number of birds already known, amounts to above eight hun- 
dred ; and every perfon who turns his mind to tlr.-fe kinds of pur- 
luits, is every day adding to the catalogue, it is not enoup-h, 
therefore, to be able to diftinguifh a land from a water fowl ; 
much more is frill required : to be able to diftinguim the different 
kinds of birds from each other ; and even the varieties in the 
fame kind, when they happen to offer. This certainly is a work 
of great difficulty ; and perhaps the attainment will not repay 
the labour. The fenfible part of mankind will not withdraw 
all their attention from more important purfuits, to give it en- 
tirely up to what promises to repay them only with a very confin- 
ed fpccies of amufement. In my diftribution of birds, there- 
fore, I will follow Linnaeus in the firft fketch of his fyftem ; 
and then leave him, to follow the moft natural diftinclions, in 
enumerating the different kinds that admit of an hiftory, or re- 
quire a defcription. 

Linnaeus divides all birds into fix claffes ; namely, into birds 
of the rapacious kind, birds of the pie kind, birds of the poultry 
kind, birds of the fparrow kind, birds of the duck kind, and 
birds of the crane kind. The four firft comprehend the various 
kinds of land birds ; the two laft, thofe that belong to the wa- 

Birds of the rapacious. >bWconftitute tftat clafs of carnivorous 
fowl that live by rapine. He diftinguifhes them by their beak, 
which is hooked, ftrong, and notched at the point ; by their legs, 
which are fhort and mufcular, and made for the purpofes of tear- 
ing ; by their toes, which are ftrong and knobbed ; and their ta- 
lons, which are fliarp and crooked ; by the make of their body, 
which is mufcular j and their flefli, which is impure : nor are 
they lefs known by their food, which confifts entirely of flefli ; 
their ft omach, which is membranous 5 and their manners, v/hich 
ie fierce and cruel. 


Birds of the pie kind have the bill differing from the former : 
as in thofe it refembles an hook, deftined for tearing to pieces -, 
In thefe it refembles a wedge, fitted for the purpofe of cleaving. 
Their legs are formed fhort and ftrong for walking ; their bodies 
are flender and impure, and their food rr.ifcellaneou?. They 
nettle in trees ; and the male feeds the female during the time of 

Birds of the poultry kind have the bill a little convex, for the 
purpofes of gathering their food. The upper chap hangs over 
the lower ; their bodies are fat and mufeular, and their flefh 
white and pure. They live upon grain, which is moiftened in 
the crop. They make their neft on the ground, without art ; 
they lay many eggs, and ufe promifcuous venery. 

Birds of the fparroiv kind comprehend all that beautiful and 
vocal clafs that adorn our fields and groves, and gratify eyepy 
fenfe in its turn. Their bills may be compared to a forceps that 
catches hold ; their legs are formed for hopping along ; their bo- 
dies are tender ; pure in fuch as feed upon grain, impure in fuch 
as live upon infects. They live chiefly in trees; their nefts are 
artificially made, and their amours are observed with connubial 

Birds of the duck kind ufe their bill as a kind of ftrainer to 
their food ; it is fmooth, covered with a fkin, and nervous at the 
point. Their legs are fhort, and their feet formed for fwimming, 
the toes being webbed together. Their body is fat, inclining to 
rancidity. They live in waters, and chiefly build their nefts 
upon land. 

With refpecl: to the order of birds that belong to the waters, 
thofe of the crane kind have the bill formed for the purpofes of 
fearching and examining the bottom of pools : their legs are long, 
and formed for wading ; their toes are not webbed ; their thighs 
are half naked; their body is flender, and covered with a very 
thin Ikin ; their tail is fhort, and their flefh favoury. They 
live in lakes upon animals, and they chiefly build their nefls up- 
on the ground. 

Such is the divifion of Linnceus, with refpecl: to this clafs of 
animals $ and at firfl fight it appears natural and comprehenfive. 


But WC r 

fhou' c he was 

iig arbitrary 

n-j to enter deeper 
the moft unlike in 
nature th 
ed> that entin 

-.AC* In t labution, 

he would find the humming-bird and the ' ilv- 

oftrich, joined in the fame fami! 

:ure was thehumr told that 

, would lie not thii,, 

:l upon \\y to form a;- 

the..- . ,. v'^fires to ^ eitj .uui 

i ' v.'.in- 
ht exhauft the pat 

only of the writer, but tlu examine tho 

prefent confined undon. i certainly be impoflibk 

to a more n.-.i viral I 
ing the gen:: 
viptionof tlv? : 

^roncorodierdaf^ as I , at them, there-Kl^ 

'ie fpccies, and all the varieties that demand hi> 
Whn i ; -leader of any trib. ibed, and it^ 

\viilgtvc. lentbleidr 

.1 under it. } , cader will not thus !u 

knowledge ranged under fuch precife dillinat : )3 be 

able to i. :ch fluency, that the nv, lafs: 



However, it ir.iy be paiper o the reader, t 

':iere find his curio! 
lumes, where we often ta^ 
who ha-. It ten the natural hitlory ot 

ITICS, or d 
.hckplumr.fre. It muf. refore happen. 


inftead of giving the hiftory of a bird, we muft be content to en- 
tertain the reader with merely its defer iption. I will therefore di- 
vide the following hiftory of birds, with Linrueus, into fix parts : 
in the firft of which I will give fuch as Briffon has ranged among 
the rapacious birds ; next thofe of the pie kind.; and thus go on 
through the fucceeding claiTes, till I finifh with thofe of the duck 
kind. But before I enter upon a fyftemalic detail, I will beg 
leave to give the hiftory of three or four birds, that do not well 
range in any fyftem. Thefe, from their great fize, are fufficient- 
ly diftinguifhable from the reft 3 and from their incapacity of fly- 
ing, lead a life a good deal differing from the reft of the feather- 
ed creation. The birds I mean are'the Oftrich, the Coffawary, 
the Emu, the Dodo, and the Solitaire. 


Tie Oflrlcb. 


IN beginning with the feathered tribe, the firft animal that o' 
fers feems to unite theclafs of quadrupeds and of birds init- 
felf.- While it has the general outline and properties of a bird, 
it retains many of the marks of the quadruped. In appearance 
the oftrich refembles the camel, and is almoft as tall ; it is cover- 
ed with a plumage that refembles hair much more nearly than 
feathers, arid its internal parts bear as near a fimilitude to thofc 
pf the quadruped as of the bird creation. It "may be confidered, 
therefore, as an animal made to fill up that chafm in nature which 
feparates one clafs of beings from another. 

The oftrich is the largeft of all bird;;. Travellers affirm that 
they are feen as tall as a man .on horfeback j and even fome of 
thofe that have been brought into England were above feven feet 
high. The head and bill fomewhat referable thofe of a duck ; 
and the neck may be likened to that of a fwan, but that it is much 
longer ; the legs and thighs refemble thofe of an hen ; though 
the whole appearance bears a ftrong refemblance to that of a ca- 
mel, But to be more particular^ it is ufually feven feet higfy 

30 A N H I S T O R Y 

from the top of the head to the ground ; but from the back it is 
only four ; fo that the head and neck are above three feet long. 
From the top of the head to the rump, when the neck is ftretch- 
cd out in a right line, it is fix feet long, and the tail is about a 
foot more. One of the wings, without the feathers, is a foot 
.and an half; and being ftretched out, with the feathers, is three 

The plumage is much alike in all ; that is, generally black 
and white ; though fomc of them are faid to be grey. The great- 
er! feathers are at the extremities of the wings and tail, and the 
largeil are generally white. The next row is black and white ; 
and of the fmall feathers, on the back and belly, fome are white 
nrJ others black. There are no feathers on the fides,, nor yet on 
the thighs, nor under the wings. The lower part of the neck, 
about half way, is covered with ftill fmaller feathers than thofe 
on the belly and back ; and thofe, like the former, alfo are of 
different colours. 

All thefe feathers are of the fame kind, and peculiar to the 
oftrich ; for other birds have feveral forts, fome of which are foft 
and downy, and others hard and ftrong. Oftrich feathers are al- 
moil r.Il as foft as down, being utterly unfit to ferve the animal 
for Hying, 2nd ftill lefs adapted to be a proper defence againft ex- 
tern;:;: injury. The feathers of other birds have the webs broad?r 
on 0112 fide than the other, but thofc of the oft rich have their fliaft 
exactly in the middle. The upper part of the head and neck are 
covered with a very fine clear white hair, that (bines like the 
bridles of a hog; and in fDnis places there are fmall tufts of it, 
confifting of about twelve hairs, which grow from a fmgle fliaft 
about the thicknefs of a pin. 

At the end of each wing, (here is a kind of fpur almoft like 
the quill of a porcupine. It is an inch long, being hollow 
and of an horny fubftance. There are tivo of thefe on each 
wing; the large/I of which is at the extremity of the bone of 
the wing, and the other a foot lower. The neck feems to be 
more (lender in proportion to that of other birds, from its not be- 
ing furniilied with feathers'. The (kin in this part is of a livid 
flcfh colour, which fome improperly would have to be blue. The, 


bill is ftiort and pointed, and two inches and an half at the be- 
ginning. The external form of the eye is like that of a man, 
the upper eye-lid being adorned with eye-lafhes which arc long- 
er than thofe on the lid below. The tongue is final 1, very iliort, 
and compofed of cartilages, ligaments, and membranes, inter- 
mixed with flefhy fibres. In feme it is about an inch, being a 
little forked at the end. 

The thighs are very flefhy and large, being covered with a 
white ikinj inclining to rednefs, and wrinkled in the manner of a 
net, whofe mefhes will admit the end of a finger. Some have 
very fmall feathers here and there on the thighs ; and others agai:i 
have neither feathers nor wrinkles. What are called the legs of 
birds, in this are covered before with large fcales. The end of 
the foot is cloven, and has two very large toes, which, like the 
leg, are covered with fcales. Thefc toes are of unequal fizes. 
The largeft, which is on the infide, is feven inches long, including 
the claw, which is near three fourths of an inch in length, and 
almoft as broad. The other toe is but four inches long, and is 
without a claw. 

The internal parts of this animal are formed with no lefs fur- 
prifing peculiarity. At the top of the breaft, under the fkin, 
the fat is two inches thick ; and on the fore-part of the belly, it 
is as hard as fuet, and about two inches and an half thick in fome 
places. It has two diftinft ftomachs. The firft, which is low- 
ermoft, in its natural fituation, fomev/hat refembles the crop iri 
other birds ; but it is confiderably larger than the other ftomach, 
and is furnimed with ftrong mufcular fibres, as well circular as 
longitudinal. The fecond ftomach or gizzard, has outwardly 
the fhape of the ftomach of a man; and upon opening is always 
found filled with a variety of difcordant fubftances ; grafs, bar- 
ley, beans, bones, and ftones, fome of which exceed in fize a 
pullet's egg. The kidneys are eight inches long and two broad, 
and differ from thofe of other birds in not being divided into lobes. 
The heart and lungs are feparated by a midriff, as in quadrupeds ; 
and the parts of generation alfo bear a very ftrong refemWance 
and analogy. % 

Such is theftru&tire of this animal, forming the (hade that; 
unites birds and quadrupeds 5 and from this ftructure its habit* 


and manners are entirely peculiar. It is a native only of the 
torrid regions of Africa, and has long been celebrated by thofr; 
who have had occa(io;i to mention the animals of that region. 
Its flefh is prcfcribed in Scripture as unfit to be eaten ; and moft 
of the ancient writers defcribe it as well known in their times. 
Like the race cf the elephant, it is transmitted down without 
mixture ; and has never been known to breed out of that country 
which firft produced it. It feems formed to live among the fandy 
and burning deferts of the torrid zone ; and, as in fome meafure 
it owes its birth to their genial influence, fo it fcldom migrates 
into tracts more mild or more fertile. As that is the peculiar 
country of the elephant, the rhinoceros, and camel, fo it may 
readily be fuppofed capable of affording a retreat to the oftrich. 
They inhabit from preference the mod iblitary and horrid deferts, 
where there are few vegetables to cloath the furface of the earth, 
and where the rain never comes to refrefh it. The Arabians 
affert that the oftrich never drinks ; and the place of its habita- 
tion feems to confirm the affertion. In thefe formidable regions, 
oftriches are feen in large flocks, which to the diftant fpectator 
appear like a regiment of cavalry, and have often alarmed a 
whole caravan. There is no defer t, how barren foever, but 
what is capable of fupplying thefe animals withprovifion; they 
eat almoft every thing ; and thefe barren tracts are thus doubly 
grateful, as they afford both food and fecurity. The oftrich is 
of all other animals the moft voracious. It will devour leather, 
grafs, hair, iron, Hones, or any thing that is given. Nor are 
its powers of digeftion lefs in fuch things as are digeftible. 
Thofe fubftances which the coats of the ftomach cannot foften, 
pafs whole ; fo that glafs, ftones, or iron, are excluded in the 
form in which they were devoured. All metals, indeed, which 
are fwallowed by any animal, lofe a part of their weight, and 
often the extremities of their figure, from the action of the 
juices of the ftomach upon their furface. A quarter piftole, 
which was fwallowed by a duck, loft feven grains of its weight 
in the gizzard before it was voided ; and it is probable that 
a ftill greater diminution of weight would happen in the ftomach 
of an oftrich; confidered in this light, therefore, this animal 
may be faid to digeft iron ; but fuch fubftances feldom remain 
long enough in the ftomach of any animal to undergo fo tedious 


diffoltttion. However this be, the oftrich fwaflows almolt 
tfery thing prefented to it. Whether this be from the neceflity 
which fmaller birds are under of picking up gravel to keep the 
coats of their ftomach afunder, or whether it be from a want of 
diftingui fliing by the tafte what fubftances are fit and what inca- 
pable of digeftion; certain it is, that in the oftrich differed by 
Ranby there appeared fuch a quantity of heterogeneous fub- 
itances, that it was wonderful how any animal could digeft fuch 
an overcharge of nourifhment. Valifnieri alfo found the firft 
flomach filled with a quantity of incongruous fubftances ; grafs, 
nuts, cords, {tones, gl-afs, brafs, copper, iron, tin, lead, and wood ; 
a piece of ftone was found among the reft that weighed more than 
a pound. He faw one of thefe animals that was killed by devour- 
ing a quantity of quick-lime. It would feem that the oftrich 
is obliged to fill up the great cavity of its ftomach in order to be 
at eafc ; but nutritious fubftances not occuring, it pours in what- 
ever offers to fupply the void; 

In their hativedeferts, however, it is probable they live chief- 
ly upon vegetables,' where they lead an inoftenfive and facial 
life ; the male, as Thevenot aflures us, aflbrting with the fe- 
male with connubial fidelity. They are fai'd to be very much in- 
clined to venery ; and the make of the parts in both fexes feem 
to confirm the report. It is probable alfo they copulate, like other 
birds, by compreffion ; and they lay very large eggs, forne of 
them being above five inches in din meter, and weighing above 
fifteen pounds. Thefj eggs have a very hard ftiell, fomewhat 
refembling thofe of the crocodile, except chat tl)ofe of the latter 
are lefs and rounder.' 

The feafon for laying depends on the climate where the ani- 
mals are bred. In the northern parts of Africa, this feafon is 
about the beginning of July ; in the fouth, it is about the lat- 
ter end of December. Thefe birds are very prolific, and lay ge- 
nerally from forty to fifty eggs at one clutch. It has been com- 
monly reported that the female depofits them in the find ; r.:;n, 
covering them up, leaves them to be hatched by the heat of ths 
climate, and then permits the young to fliift for themfel ves. Very 
little of this however is true : no bird has. a ftronger uftVclion > r 



her young than the oft-rich, and none watches her eggs with grea- 
ter ailiduity. It happens indeed in thofe hot climates, that there 
is lefs neceflity for the continual incubation of the female ; and 
fhe more frequently leaves her eggs, which are in no fear of be- 
ing chilled by the weather : but though fhe fometimes forfakes- 
them by day, fhe always carefully broods over them by night; 
and Kolben, who has feen great numbers of them at the Cape 
of Goo J Hope, affirms that they fit on their eggs like other birds, 
and that the male and female take this office by turns, as he had 
frequent opportunities of obferving. Nor is it more true what is 
faid of their forfaking their young after they are excluded the 
fhell. On the contrary the young ones are not even able to walk 
for feveral days after they are hatched. During this time the old 
ones are very affiduous in fupplying them with grafs, and very 
careful to defend them from danger : nay, they encounter every 
danger in their defence. It was a way of taking them among 
the ancients, to plant a number of {harp flakes round the oftrich's 
nefr. in her abfence, upon which me peirced herfelf at her return. 
The young, when brought forth, are of an afh colour the firft 
year, ani are covered with feathers all over. But in time thefc 
feathers drop : and thofe parts which are covered afTume a dif- 
ferent and more becoming plumage. 

The beauty of a part of this plumage, particularly the long 
feathers that compofe the wings and tail, is the chief reafon that 
man has been fo active in purfuing this harmlefs bird to its de- 
ferts, and hunting it with no fmall degree of expenfe and labour. 
The ancients ufed thofe plumes in their helmets ; the ladies of 
the eaft make them an ornament in their drefs ; and among us, 
our undertakers and our fine gentlemen frill make ufe of them. 
to decorate their hearfes and their hats. Thofe feathers which are 
plucked from the animal while alive are much more valued than, 
thofe taken when dead, the latter being dry, light, and fubjeft to 

be worm eaten. 

Befide the value of their plumage, fome of the favage nations 
of Africa, hunt them alfo for their flefh ; which they confider as 
a dainty. They fometimes alfo breed thefe birds tame to eat the 
young ones> of which the female is &id to be the greateft delicacy. 


Some nations have obtained the name of Struthophagi, or 
Oftrich-eaters, from their peculiar fondnefs for this food ; and 
even the Romans themfelves were not averfe to it. Apicius 
gives us a receipt for making fauce for the oftrich; and Helioga- 
balus is noted for having dreffed the brains of fix hundred 
oflriches in one dim ; for it was his cuftom never to eat of but 
one dim in a day, but that was an expenfive one. Even among 
the Europeans now, the eggs of the oftrich are faid to be well 
tailed and extremely nourifhing : but they are too fcarce to be 
fed upon, although a fingle egg be a fuf^cierit entertainment for 

eight men. 

As the fpoils of the oftrich ar-e thus valuable, it is not to be 

wondered at tfiat man has become their moft afTiduous purfuer. 
For this purpofe the Arabians train up their beft and fleeter! 
horfes, and hunt the oftrich ftijl in view. Perhaps, of all other 
varieties of the chafe, this, though the moft laborious, is yet the 
moft entertaining, As foan as the hunter comes within fight of 
his prey, he puts on his horfe with a gentle gallop, fa as to keep 
the oftrich ftill in fight ; yet not fa as to terrify him from the 
plain into the mountains, Of all known animals that make ufe 
of their legs in running, the oftrich is by far the fwifteft : upon 
obferving himfelf therefore purfued at a diftance, he begins to 
run at nrft but gently ; either infenfitye of his danger, or fure of 
efcaping. In this fituation he fqmewhat refembles a man at full 
fpeed; his wings, like two arms, keep working with a motion 
correfpondent to that of his legs \ and his fpeed would very foort 
fhatch him from the view of his purfuers, but, unfortunately for 
the filly creature, inftead of going off in a direct line, he takes his 
courfe in circles ; while the hunters ftill makes a fmali courfe 
within, relieve each other,, meet him at unexps&ed. turns, and 
keep him thus ftill employed, ftill followed for two. or three days 
together, At lan\ fpent with fatigue and famine, and finding all 
power of efcaping impoflible, he endeavours to hide himfelf from 
thofe enemies he cannot avoid, and covers his head in the fand> 
or the firft thicket he meets. Sometimes, however, he attempts 
to face his purfuers'; and, though in general the moft gentle anU 
mal in nature, when driven to defperation, he defends himfelf 
with his beak ? his wings and his feet. Such is the force of his 


motion, that a man would be utterly unable to withftand him in 
the fhock. 

The Struthophagi have another method of taking this bird : 
they cover themfelves with an oftrich's fkin, and paffing up an 
arm through the neck, thus counterfeit all the motions of this 
animal. -By this artifice they approach the oftrich, which becomes 
an eafy prey. He is fometimes alfo taken by dogs and nets : 
but the moft ufual way is that mentioned above. 

When the Arabians have thus taken an oftrich-, they cut its 
throat, and making a ligature below the opening, they fhake the 
bird, as one would rinfe a barrel-: then taking off the ligature, 
there runs out from the wound in the throat, a considerable quan- 
tity of blood, mixed with the fat of the animal;, and, this is con- 
Kdered as one of their greatert dainties. They next flea the 
bird ; and of the fkin, which is ftrong and thick, fometimes make 
a kind of veft, which anfwers the purpofes of a cuirafs and a 

There are others who, more compamonate or more provident, 
clo not kill their captive, but endeavour to tame it, for the pur- 
pofes of (applying thofe feathers which are in fo great requeft. 
The inhabitants of Dara and Lybia breed up whole flocks of 
them, and they are tamed v/ith very little trouble. But it is not 
for their feathers alone that they are prized in this domeftic ftate; 
they are often ridden upon and ufed as horfes. Moore afTures us, 
that at Joar he faw a man travelling upon an oftrich; and 
Adanfon afierts that, at the factory of Podore, he had two 
oftriches, which were then young, the ftrongeft of which ran 
fwifter than the beft Englifh racer, although he carried two Ne- 
groes on his back. As foon as the animal perceived that it was 
thus loaded, it fct off running with all its force, and made feve- 
ral circuits round the village ; till at length the people were 
obliged to flop it by barring up the way. How far this ftrength 
and fwiftnds may be ufeful to mankind, even in a polifhed ftate, 
is a matter i : iat perhaps dcfervcs enquiry. Pofterity may avail 
themfelves of this creatures abilities ; and riding upon an oftrich 
may one day become the favourite, as it inoft certainly is the 
fwifteft, mode of conveyance. 


The parts of this animal are faid to be convertible to many 
falutary purpofes in medicine. The fat is faid to be emollient and 
relaxing ; that while it relaxes the tendons, it fortifies the ner- 
vous fyftem ; and being applied to the region of the loins, it 
abates the pains of the ftone in the kidney. The fhell of the egg 
powdered, and given in proper quantities, it is faid to be ufeful in 
promoting urine, and difTolving the ftone in the bladder. The 
fubftance of the egg itfelf is thought to be peculiarly nourifliing : 
however, Galen, in mentioning this, aflerts, that the escgs of hens 
and pheafants arc good to be eaten ; thofe of geefe arid oftriches 
are the worft of all. 


The E;nu. 

OF this bird, which many call the American Oftrich, but 
little is certainly known. It is an inhabitant of the New 
* / 

Continent ; and the travellers who have mentioned it, feein to 
have been more folicitous in proving its affinity to the oftrich, 
than in defcribing thofe peculiarities which diftingtiifh it from all 
others of the feathered creation. 

It is chiefly found in Guiana, along ths banks of the Oroonoko, 
in the inland provinces of Brafil and Chili, and the vaft forefts 
that border on the mouth of the river Plata. Many other parts 
of South America were known to have them; but as men mul- 
tiplied, thefe large and timorous birds either fell beneath their fu- 
perior power, or fled from their vicinity. 

The Emu, though not fo large as the oftrich, is only fecond to 
it in magnitude. It is by much the largeft bird in the New 
Continent; and is generally found to be fix feet high, meafuring 
from its head to the ground. Its legs are three feet long; and 
its thigh is near as thick as that of a man. The toes differ from 
thofe of the oil rich ; as there are three in the American bird, and 
but two in the former. Its neck is long, its head fmall, and the 
bill flatted, like that of the oftrich 5 but, in all other refpcxSts. it 


more refcmbles a Ca lib wary, a large bird, to be defcribed here- 
after. The form of the body appears round ; the wings are fhort, 
and entirely unfitted for flying, and it entirely wants a tail. It 
is covered from the back and rump with long feathers, which 
fall backward, and cover the anus : thefe feathers are grey upon 
the back, and white on the belly. It goes very fwiftly, and 
feems affifted in its motion by a kind of tubercle behind, like an 
heel, upon which, on plain ground, it treads very fecurely : in its 
courfe it ufes a very odd kind of action, lifting up one wing, 
which it keeps elevated for a time ; till letting it drop, it lifts up 
the other. What the bird's intention may be in thus keeping 
.only one wing up, is not eafy to difcover ; whether it makes ufe 
of this as a fail to catch the wind, or whether as a rudder to turn 
Its courfe, in order to avoid the arrows of the Indians, yet re- 
mains to be afcertained : however this be, the emu runs with fuch 
fwiftnefs, that the fleeteft dogs are thrown out in the purfuit. 
One of them, finding itfelf furrou tided by the hunters, darted 
among the dogs with fuch fury that they made way to avoid its 
rage, and it efcaped ? by its amazing velocity, in fafety to the 

As this bird is but little known, fo travellers have given a 
loofe to their imaginations in defcribing fome of its actions, 
which they were confcious could not be eafily contradicted. 
This animal, fays Nierenberg, is yery peculiar in the hatching 
of its young. The male compels twenty or thirty of the fe- 
males to lay their eggs in one neft ; he then, when they have 
done laying, chafes them a way, and places himfeif upon the 
eggs ; however, he takes the fmgular precaution of laying two 
cf the number aiide, which he does not fit upon. When the young 
ones come forth, thefe two eggs are addled; which the' male 
having forefeen, breaks one, and then another, upon which 
multitudes cf flies are found to fettle ; and thefe fupply the 
young brood with a fufficiency cf provifion, till they are able tq 
fhift for themfelves. 

On the other hand, Wafer afierts, that he has feen great 
quantities of this animal's eggs on the defert ihores, north of the. 
river Plata ; where they were buried in the fand, in order to be 
hatched by the heat of the climate. Both this, as well as the 


preceding account, may be doubted: and it is more probable 
that it was the crocodile's eggs which Wafer had feen, which 
are undoubtedly hatched in that manner. 

When the young ones are hatched, they are familiar, and 
follow the firft perfon they meet. I have been followed myfelf, 
fays Wafer, by many of thefe young oftriches ; which, at fiift, 
are extremely harmlefs arid fimple : but as they grow older, 
they become more cunning and diftruftful ; and run fo fwift, 
that a greyhound can fcarcely overtake them. Their flefh, in 
general, is good to be eaten ; efpecially if they be young. It 
would be no difficult matter to rear up flocks of thefe animals 
tame, particularly as they are naturally fo familiar; and they 
might be found to anfwer domeftic purpofes, like the hen, or the 
turkey. Their maintenance could not be expenfive, if, as 
Narborough fays, they live entirely upon grafs. 


The Caffbwary* 

TH E CafTowary is a bird which was firft brought into 
Europe by the Dutch, from Java;, in the Eafl-Indies, in 
which part of the world it is only to be found. Next to the 
preceding, it is the largeft and the heavieft of the feathered 

The caflbwary, though not fo large as the former, yet ap- 
pears more bulky to the eye; its body being nearly equal, and 
its neck and legs much thicker and ftronger in proportion ; this 
conformation gives it an air of ftrength and force, which the 
fiercenefs and fmgularity of its countenance confpire to render 
formidable. It is five feet and an half long, from the point of 
the bill to the extremity of the claws. The legs are two feet 
and an half high, from the belly to the end of the claws. The 
Jiead and neck together are a foot and an half; and the largeft toe^ 
including the claw, is five inches long. The claw alone, of the 


leaft toe, is three inches and an half in length. The wing is #> 
fmall, that it does not appear; it being hid under the feathers of 
the back. In other birds, a part of the feathers ferve for flight > 
and are different from thofe that ferve for merely covering; 
but in the caflbwary, all the feathers are of the fame kind, and 
outwardly of the fame colour. They are generally double; 
having two long fliafts, which grow out of a fhort on?, which 
is fixed in the fkin. Thofe that are double, are always of an 
unequal length; for fome are fourteen inches long, particularly 
on the rump ; while others are not above three. The beards 
that adorn the ftem or fhaft, are from about half way to the end, 
very long, and as thick as an horfe hair, without being fubdi- 
vidcd into fibres. The ftem or fhaft is flat, Ihining, black, 
and knotted below ; and from each knot there proceeds a beard : 
likewife, the beards at the end of the large feathers are perfectly 
black ; and towards the root cf a grey tawny colour ; fhorter, 
more foft, and throwing out fine fibres, like down ; fo that no- 
thing appears except the ends, which ETC hard and black ; be- 
caufe the other part, compofed of down, is quite covered. There 
are feathers on the head and neck; but they are fo fhort, 
and thinly {own, that the bird's fkin appears naked, except 
towards the hinder part of the head, where they are a little longer. 
The feathers which adorn the rump are extremely thick ; but do 
not differ, in other refpeclis, from the reft, excepting their being- 
longer. The wings, when they are deprived of their feathers, 
are but three inches long, and the feathers are like thofe on other 
parts of the body. The ends of the wings are adorned with five 
prickles, of different lengths and thicknefs, which bend like a 
bow : thefe are hollow from the roots to the very points, having 
only that flight fubftance within which all quills are known to 
have. The longer! of thefe prickles is eleven inches, and it is a 
quarter of an inch in diameter at the root, being thicker there 
than towards the extremity ; the point feems broken off. 

The part, however, which moft diftinguifnes this animal is 
the head, which, though final 1, like that of an oftrich, does not 
fail to infpire fome degree of terror. It is bare of feathers, and is 
in a manner armed with an helmet of horny fubftance, that covers 
it from the root of the bill to near half the head backwards. This 


helmet is black before and yellow behind. Its fubflance is very- 
hard, being formed by the elevation of the bone of the fkull ; 
and it confifts of feveral plates, one over another, like the horn 
of an ox. Some have fuppofed that this was fhed every year 
with the feathers ; but the moft probable opinion is, that it only 
exfoliates {lowly like the beak. To the peculiar oddity of this 
natural armour may be added the colour of the eye in this animal, 
which is a bright yellow, and the globe being above an inch and 
an half in diameter, gave it an air equally fierce and extraordina- 
ry. At the bottom of the upper eye-lid, there is a row of fmall 
hairs, over which there is another row of black hair, which look 
pretty much like an eye-brow. The lower eye-lid, which is the 
largeft of the two, is furnifhed alfo with plenty of black hair. 
The hole of the ear is very large and open, being only covered 
with fmall black feathers. The fides of the head, about the eye 
and ear, being deftitute of any covering, are blue, except the 
middle of the lower eye-lid, which is white. The part of the bill 
which anfwers to the upper jaw in other animals, is very hard at 
the edges above, and the extremity of it like that of a turkey- 
cock. The end of the lower mandible is.flightly notched, and 
the whole is of a greyim brown, except a green fpot on each fide. 
As the beak admits a very wide opening, this contributes not a 
little to the bird's menacing appearance. The neck is of a violet 
colour, inclining to that of flate ; and it is red behind in feveral 
places, but chiefly in the middle. About the middle of the neck 
before, at the rife of the large feathers, there are two proceffes 
formed by the iTcin, which refemble fomewhat the gills of a 
cock, but that they are blue as well as red. The (kin which 
covers the fore-part of the bread, on which this bird leans and 
refts, is hard, callous, and without feathers. The thighs and 
legs are covered \vith feathers, and are extremely thick, ftrong, 
ftraight and covered with fcales of feveral fhapes; but the legs 
are thicker a little above the foot than in any other place. The 
toes are likewife covered with fcales, and are but three in num- 
ber ; for that which (hould be behind is wanting. The claws 
are of a hard folid fubftance, black without and white within. 

The internal parts are equally remarkable. The caflbwary 
unites with the double ftomach of animals that live upon ve- 
VOL. Ill, F 


getables, the Short inteflines of thofe that live upon flefli. The 
intcftinos of the caflbwary are thirteen times Shorter than thofe 
of the oftrich. The heart is very final!, being but an inch and 
an half long, and an inch broad at the bale. Upon the whole, it 
has the head of a warrior, the eye of a lion, the dcfjnce of a por- 
cupine, and the fwiftnefs of a courfer. 

Thus formed fora life of hoftility, for terrifying others, 'ind for 
its own defence, it might be expected that the cafknvary was one 
of the moil fierce and terrible animals of the creation. But no- 
thing is fo oppofite to its natural character, nothing fo different 
from the life it is contented to lead. It never attacks others ; and 
inftead of the bill when attacked, it rather makes ufc of its legs, 
and kicks like an hcrfe, or runs againft its purfuer, beats him 
down, and treads him to the ground. 

The manner of going of this animal is not lefs extraordinary 
than its appearance. Inftead of going directly forward, it kerns 
to kick up behind with one leg, and then making a bound onward 
\vith the other, it goes with fuch prodigious velocity, that the 
fwifteft racer would be left far behind. 

The fame degree of voracioufnefs which we perceived in the 
otrrich, obtains as Strongly here. The caflbwary fwallows every 
tbincr that comes within the capacity of its gullet. The Dutch 
ailert that it can devour not only glafs, iron, and ftones, but even 
live and burning coals, without teftifying the fmalleft fear, or 
feeling the leaft injury. It is faid that the paflage of the food 
through its Bullet is performed fo fpeedily, that even the very 
eggs which it has f wallowed whole pafs through it unbroken, in 
ttu fame form they went down. In fa6t, the alimentary canal 
of this animal, as was obferved above, is extremely Short; and it 
may happen that many kinds of food are indigestible in its fto- 
mach, as wheat or currants are to man, when fwallowed whole. 

The cafTowary's eggs are of a grey afli colour, inclining to 
<?;reen. They are not fo large nor fo round as thofe of the oftrich. 
y are marked with a number of little tubercles of a deep green, 
i.he /hell is not very thick. The largcft- of thcfc is found t 
inches round one way, and about twelve the other. 


The "fcu them parts of the mod eaftern Indies feems to be the 
natural climate of the cafTowary. His domain, if we may fo 
call it, begins where that of the oftrich terminates. The latter 
has never been found beyond the Ganges; while the cafibwary is 
never feen nearer than the i Hands of Banda, Sumatra, Java, the 
Molucca iflands, and the correfponding parts of the continent. 
Yet even here this animal feems not to have multiplied in any 
confiderable degree, as we find one of the kings of Java making 
a prefent of one of thefe birds to the captain of a Dutch (hip, 
confidering it as a very great rarity. The oilrich, that has kept 
in the deferts and unpeopled regions of Africa, is ftill numerous, 
and the unrivalled tenant of its own inhofpitable climate. But 
the caflbwary, that is the inhabitant of a more peopled and poliftied 
region, is growing fcarcer every day. It is thus, that in pro- 
portion as man multiples, all the favage and noxious animals 
fly before him: at his approach they quit their ancient habita- 
tions, how adapted foever they may be to their natures, and 
feek a more peaceable though barren retreat ; where they wil- 
lingly exchange plenty for freedom ; and encounter all the dan- 
gers of famine, to avoid the oppreilioas of an unrelenting 

The Dodo. 

MANKIND have generally made fwiftnefs the attri- 
bute of birds; but the Dodo has no title to this diftinc- 
tion. Inftead of exciting the idea of fwiftnefs by its appearance, 
it feems to ftrike the imagination as a thing the moft unwieldy 
and inactive of all nature. Its body is maffive, almoft round, 
and covered with grey feathers ; it is juft barely fuppor ted upon 
two ihort thick legs like pillars, while its head and neck rife 
from it in a manner truly grotefque. The neck, thick and 
purfy, is joined to the hesd, which confifts of two great chaps, 
that open far behind the eyes, which are large, black, and pro- 


minent ; fo that the animal when it gapes leans to be all mouth* 
The bill therefore is of an extraordinary length, not fiat and 
broad, but thick, and of a bluilh white, {harp at the end, and 
each chap crooked in oppofite directions* They referable two 
pointed fpoons that are laid together by the backs. From all this 
refults a ftupid and voracious phyfiognomy ; which is {till more 
increased by a bordering of feathers round the root of the beak, 
and which give the appearance of an hood or cowl, and finifh 
this picture of ftupid deformity. Bulk, which in other animals 
implies ftrength, in this only contributes to inactivity. The 
oftrich, or the cafTowary, are no more able to fly than the ani- 
mal before us ; but then they fupply that defect by their fpeed 
in running. The dodo feems weighed down by its own heavi- 
nefs, and has fcarce ftrength to urge itfelf forward. It feems 
among birds what the floth is among quadrupeds, an unrefifting 
thing, equally incapable of flight or defence. It is furnifhed 
with wings, covered with foft afh-coloured feathers, but they 
are too fhort to aflift it in flying. It is furnifhed with a tail, 
with a few fmall curled feathers; but this tail is difproportioned 
and difplaced. Its legs are too fhort for running, and its bodv 
too fat to be fr.rong. One would take it for a tortoife that had fup- 
plicd itfelf with the feathers of a bird; and that thus drefTed out 
with the mrtruments of flight, it was only ftill the more unwieldy. 

This bird is a native of the Ifle of France; and the Dutch, 
who firfr, difcovered it there, called it in their language the 
naufeous bird, as well from its difgufKng figure as from the bad 
tafle of its flefh. However, fucceeding obfervers contradict 
this firft report, and alTert that its flefh is good and wholefome 
eating. It is a filly fimple bird, as may be very well fuppofed 
from its figure, and is very eafily taken. Three or four dodos 
are enouph to dine an hundred men. 

Whether the dodo be the fame bird with that which fome 
travellers have defcribed under the bird of Nazareth, yet re- 
mains uncertain. The country from whence they both come fs 
the fame; their incapacity of flying is the fame; the form of the 
wings and body in both are fimilar ; but the chief difference 
, a is in the colour of their feathers, which in the female of the 
bird of N azarcth are faid to be extremely beautiful ; and in the 


length of their legs, which in the dodo are fhort ; in the other, 
are dcfcribed as long. Time and future obfervation muft clear 
up thefe doubts ; and the teilimony of a fmgle witnefs, who 
fhall have feen both, will throw more light on the fubjedt than 
the reafonings of an hundred philofophers. 


Of Rapacious Birds in General. 

THERE *feems to obtain a general refemblance in all ths 
clafTes of Nature. As among quadrupeds a part were 
feen to live upon the vegetable productions of the earth, and 
another part upon the fiefh of each other, fo among birds ; fome 
live upon vegetable food, and others by rapine, deitroying all 
fuch as want force or fwiftnefs to procure their fafety. By thus 
peopling the woods with animals of different difpofitions, Na- 
ture has wifely provided for the multiplication of life ; fmce, 
could we fuppofe that there were as many animals produced as 
there were vegetables fupplied to fuftain them, yet there might 
ftill be another clafs of animals formed, which could find a fuf- 
ficient fuftenance by feeding upon fuch of the vegetable feeders 
as happened to fall by the courfe of nature. By this contrivance, 
a greater number will be fuftained upon the whole ; for the num- 
bers would be but very thin were every creature a candidate for 
the fame food. Thus, by fupplying a variety of appetites, Na- 
ture has alfo multiplied life in her productions. 

In thus varying their appetites, Nature has alfo varied the 
form of the animal ; and while (he has given fome an inftincHve 
paffion for animal food, me has alfo furnifned them with powers 
to obtain it. All land birds of the rapacious kinds are furnifhed 
with a large head, and a ftrong crooked beak, notched at the end, 
for the purpofe of tearing their prey. They have ftrong fhort 
legs, and {harp crooked talons for the purpofe of feizing it. 
Their bodies are formed for war, being fibrous and mufcular; 
and their wings for fwiftnefs of flight, being well feathered and 


expanfive. The fight of fuch as prey by day is aftonifhingly 
quick ; and fuch as ravage by night, have their fight fo fitted 
as to fee objects in darknefs with extreme precifion. 

Their internal parts are equally formed for the food they feek 
for. Their ftomach is fimple and membranous, and wrapped in 
fat to increafe the powers of digeftion; and their interlines are 
fhort and glandular. As their food is fucculent and juicy, they 
want no length of inteftinal tube to form it into proper nourifh- 
ment. Their food is fiefh ; which dees not require a How digef- 
tion, to be converted into a fimilicude of fubftance to their own. 

Thus formed for war, they lead a life of folitude and rapacity. 
They inhabit, by choice, the moft lonely places and the moil 
clefert mountains. They make their neits in the clefts of rocks, 
and on the higheit and moil inacceffible trees of the foreft. When- 
ever they appear in the cultivated plain, or the warbling grove, it 
is only for the purpofe of depredation ; and are gloomy intruders 
on the general joy of the landfcape. They fpread terror where- 
ever they approach : all that variety of mafic which but a mo- 
ment before enlivened the jrrovc, at their appearing is inftantly at 
an end: every order of leffer birds feek for fafety, either by con- 
cealment or flight; and fome are even driven to take protection 
with man, to avoid their lefs merciful purfuers. 

It would indeed be fatal to all the fmaller race of birds, if, as 
they are weaker than all, they were alfo purfued by all; but it 
is contrived wifely for their fafety, that every order of carnivor- 
ous birds feek only for fuch as are of the fize moft approaching 
their own. The eagle flies at the buftard or the pheafant ; the 
fparrow-hawk purfues the thrufh and the linnet. Nature has 
provided that each fpecies fhould make war only on fuch as arc 
furni filed with adequate means of efcape. The fmalleft birds 
avoid their purfuers by the extreme agility, rather than the fwift- 
nefs of their flight ; for every order would foon be at an end, if 
the eagle, to its own fwiftnefs of wing, added the verfality of the 

Another circumftance which tends to render the tyranny of tliefe 
animals more fupportable is, that they are lefs fruitful than other 
birds i breeding but few at a time-. Thole of the; larger kind 


feldom produce above four eggs, often but two ; thofe of the 
fmaller kinds, never above fix or feven. The pigeon, it is true, 
that is their prey, never breeds above two at a time; but then 
fhe breeds every month in the year. The carnivorous kinds 
only breed annually, and of confequence their fecundity is fmall 
in comparifon. 

As they are fierce by nature, and arc difHcult to be tamed, Co 
this fiercenefs extends even to their young, which they force 
from the neft fooner than birds of the gentler kind. Other birds 
feldom forfake their young till able, completely, to provide for 
themfclvesj the rapacious kinds expsl them from the neft at a 
time when they {till fhould protect and fupport them. This 
feverity to their young proceeds from the neceffity of providing 
for themfelves. All animals that* by the conformation of their 
ftomach and interlines, are obliged to live upon flefh, and fupport 
themfelves by prey, though they may be mild when young, foon 
become fierce and mifchievous, by the very habit of ufmg thofe 
arms with which they are fuppiied by Nature. As it is only by 
the deftruclion of other animals that they can fubfift, they be- 
come more furious every day ; and even the parental feelings are 
overpowered in their general habits of cruelty. If the power of 
obtaining a fupply be difficult, the old ones foon drive their brood 
from the neft to fruit for themfelves, and often deftroy them in a 
fit of fury caufed by hunger. 

Another efFecl: of this natural and acquired feverity is, that 
almoft all birds of prey are unfociable. It has long been ob- 
ferved, by Ariftotle, that all birds, with crooked beaks and ta- 
lons, are folitary : like quadrupeds of die cat kind, they lead a 
lonely wandering life, and are united only in pairs, by that in- 
ftincl: which overpowers their rapacious habits of enmity with 
all other animals. As the male and female are often neceflary 
to each other in their purfuits, Co they fometimes live together; 
but, except at certain feafons, they moft ufually prowl alone; 
and, like robbers, enjoy in folitude the fruits of their plunder. 

All birds of prey are remarkable for one fingularity, for which 
it is not eafy to account. All the males of thefe birds are about 
a third lefs, and weaker than the females ; contrary to what ob- 


tains among quadrupeds, among which the males are always the 
Jargefland boldeft: from thence the male is called, by falconers, 
a tarcel\ that is, a tierce or third Idfs than the other. Therea- 
Ibn of this difference cannot proceed from the neceflity of a larger 
body in the female for the purpofcs of breeding, and that her vo- 
lume is thus increafed by the quantity of her eggs \ for in other 
birds, that breed much fafter, and that lay in much greater pro- 
portion, fuch as the hen, the duck, or the pheafant, the male is 
by much the largeft of the two. Whatever be the caufe, cer- 
tain it is, that the females, as Willoughby exprefTes it, are of 
greater fize, more beautiful and lovely for fhape and colours, 
ftronger, more fierce and generous, than the males ; whether 
it may be that it is neceffery for the female to be thus fuperior j as 
it is incumbent upon her to provide } not only for herfelf but her 
young ones alfo. 

Thefebirds, like quadrupeds of the carnivorous kind, are all 
lean and meagre. Their flefh is ftringy and ill-tailed, foon cor- 
rupting, and tin6tured with the flavour of that animal food upon 
which they fubfift. Neverthelefs, Belonious afferts, that many 
people admire the flefh of the vulture and falcon, and drefs them 
for eating;, when they meet with any accident that unfits 
them for the chafe. He aflerts that, that the ofpcry, a fpecies of 
the eagle, when young, is excellent food; but he contents him- 
fclf with advifmg us, to breed thefe birds up for our pleafurc, 
rather in the field, than for the table. 

Of land birds of a rapacious nature, there are five kinds. 
The eagle kind, the hawk kind, the vulture kind, the horned, 
the fcreech owl kind. The difrincHve marks of this clafs, are 
taken from their claws and beak : their toes are feparated: their 
k>. s are feathered to the heel : their toes are four in number ; 
three before, one behind : their beak is fliort, thick and crooked. 

The eagle kind is cliftinguifhed from the reft by his beak, 
which is ftraight till towards the end, when it begins to hook 

The vulture kind is diftinguifhcd by the head and neck: he is 
without feathers. 


The hawk kind by the beak; being hooked from the very 

The horned owl by the feathers at the bafe of the bill {landing 
forwards j and by fome feathers on the head, that ftand out, re-, 
femblmg horns * 

The fcreech owl, by the feathers at the bafe of the bill {land- 
ing forward, and being without horns. -A defcription of one in 
each kind, will ferve for all the reft. 


The Eagle and its Affinities. 

TH E golden eagle is the largeft and the noblefl of all 
thofe birds that have received the name of Eagle. It 
weighs above twelve pounds. Its length is three feet ; the ex- 
tent of its wings, feven feet four inches ; the bill is three inches 
long, and of a deep blue colour ; and the eye of an hazel colour. 
The fight and fenfe of fmelling are very acute. The head and 
neck are cloathed with narrow fharp-pomted feathers and of a 
deep brown colour, bordered with tawny ; but thofe on the crown 
of the head in very old birds turn grey. The whole body, above 
as well as beneath, is of a dark brown ; and the feathers of the 
back are finely clouded with a deeper ihade of the fame. The 
wings when cloathed reach to the end of the tail. The quill 
feathers are of a chocolate colour, the {hafts white. The tail 13 
of a deep brown, irregularly barred, and blotched with an obfcurc 
am-colour, and ufually white at the roots of the feathers. The 
legs are yellow, ftiort, and very ftrong, being three inches in 
circumference, and feathered to the very fect % The toes are co- 
vered with large fcales, and armed with the moft formidable 
claws, the middle of which are two incher, long. 

In the rear of this terrible bird follow the ring-tailed eagle, the 
tymnwn eagle, the bald eagle-) the white eaglf, the hough-footed ea- 
gle, the erne, the black eagle j the ofprey, fa fix- eagle, and the 
* VOL, III, G 


crowned eagle. Thefe, and others that might be added, form dif- 
ferent fhades in this fierce family ; but have all the fame rapaci- 
ty, the fame general form, the fame habits, and the fame manner 
of bringing up their young. 

In general, thefe birds are found in mountainous and ill-peo- 
pled countries, and breed among the loftieft cliffs. They choofe 
thofe places which are remoteft from man, upon whofe poiTeffions 
they but feldom make their depredations, being contented rather 
to follow the wild game in the foreft, than to rifque their fafety 
to fatisfy their hunger. 

This fierce animal may be corifidered among birds as the lion 
among quadrupeds ; and in many refpc&s they have .a flrong fi- 
militude to each other. They are both poflefled of force, and an 
empire over their fellows of the foreft. Equally magnanimous, they 
clifdain fmallsr plunder ; and only purfue animals worthy the con- 
quefh It is not till after having been long provoked, by the cries 
of the rook or the magpie, that this generous bird thinks fit to 
puniih them with death : the eagle alfo difdains to mare the plun- 
der of another bird ; and will take up with no other prey but 
that which he has acquired by his own purfuits. How hungry 
foever he may be, he never Hoops to carrion ; and when fatiated, 
he never returns to the fame carcafe, but leaves it for other ani- 
mals, more rapacious and lefs del icate than he. Solitary, like the 
lion, he. keeps the defert to himfelf alone ; it is as extraordinary 
to fee two pair of eagles in the fame mountain, as two lions in the 
fame foreft. They keep feparate, to find a more ample fupply ; 
and confider the quantity of their game as the beft proof of their 
dominion. Nor does the fimilitude of thefe animals ftop here : 
they have both fparkling eyes, and nearly of the fame colour; 
their claws are of the fame form, their breath equally ftrong, and 
their cry equally loud and terrifying. Bred both for war, they 
are enemies cf all fociety ; alike fierce, proud, and incapable of 
b eins eafily tamed. It requires great patience and much art to 
tame an eagle ; and e,ven though taken young, and brought un- 
der by long afliduity, yet frill it is a dangerous domeftic, and of- 
ten turns its force r.gainfr. its matter. When brought into the field 
for the purpofts of fowling, the falconer is never fure of its attach- 


ment : innate pride, and love of liberty, {till prompt it to re- 
gain its native folitudes : and the moment the falconer fees it, 
when let loofe, firft {loop towards the ground, and then rife per- 
pendicularly into the clouds, he gives up all his former labour for 
loft ; quite fure of never beholding his late prifoner more. Some- 
times, however, they are brought to have an attachment for their 
feeder : they are then highly ierviceable, and liberally provide for 
his pleafures and fupport. When the falconer lets them go from 
his hand they play about and hover round him till their game pre- 
fents, which they fee at an immenfe diftance, and purfue'with 
certain deflruclioru 

Of alt animals the eagle flies higheft ; and from thence the 
ancients have given him the epithet of bird of Heaven. Of 
all others alfo, he has the quickeft eye; but his fenfe of fmelling 
is far inferior to that of the vulture. He never purfues, there- 
fore, but in fight; and when he has feized his prey, he ftoops 
from his height, as if to examine its weight, always laying it on 
the ground before he carries it off. Tho' his wing is very pow- 
erful, yet, as he has but little fupplenefs in the joints of the leg, 
he finds it difficult to rife when down ; however, if not inftantly 
purfued, he finds no difficulty in carrying off geefe and cranes. 
He alfo carries away hares, lambs, arid kids ; and often denroys 
fawns and calves, to drink their blood, and carries a part of their 
flefh to his retreat. Infants themfelves, when Icfc unattended, 
have been deftroyed by thefo rapacious creatures ; which probably 
gave rife to the fable of Ganymede's being fiiatched up by an eagle 
to heaven. 

An infrance is recorded in Scotland of two jphildren being car- 
ried off by eagles ; but fortunately they received no hurt by the 
way ;- and, the eagles being purfued, the children were reflorcd 
unhurt out of the nefts to the affrighted parents. 

The eagle is thus at all times a formidable neighbour; but 
peculiarly when bringing up its young. It is then that the female, 
as well as the male, exert all their force and induitry tofupply their 
young. Smith, in his Hiftory of Kerry, relates that a poor mania 
that country got a comfortable fubfiftence for his family, during a 
fu>r:me.r of famine, out of an eagle's ndl, by robbing the jugL-ts 


of food, which was plentifully fupplied by the old ones, He pro^r 
traced their afHduity beyond the ufual time, by clipping the wings 
and retarding the flight of the young; and very probably alfo, as 
I have known myfelf, by fo tying them as to increafe their cries, 
ivhich is always found to increafe the parent's difpatch to pro- 
cure them provifion. It was lucky, however, that the old eagles 
did not furprize the countryman as he was thus employed; as 
their refcntment might have been dangerous. 

It happened fometime ago, in the fame country, that a peafant 
refolved to rob the ncft of an eagle, that had built in a fmnll ifland, 
an the beautiful lake of Killarney. He accordingly flripped, and 
fvvam in upon the ifland while the old ones were away; and, robr 
birig the neft of its young, he was preparing tofwim back, with 
the eaglets tied in a firing ; but, while he was yet up to his chin 
In the water, the old eagles returned, and, miffing their young, 
quickly fell upon the plunderer, and in fpite of all his refiitancej 
difpatched him with their beaks and talons. 

In order to extirpate thefe pernicious birds, there is a law in 
the Orkney Iflands, which entitles any perfon that kills an eagle 
to a hen out of every houfe in the parifh in which the plunderer 
is killed. 

The neft of the eagle is ufually built in the mod inacceflible 
.cliff of the rock, and often ihielded from the weather by fome jut- 
ting crag that hangs over it. Sometimes, however, it is wholly 
expofed to the winds, as well fideways as above ; for the neft is 
flat, though built with great labour. It is faid that the fame neft 
ferves the eagle during life ; and indeed the pains beftowed in 
forming it feems to argue as much. One of thefe was found in 
the Peak of Derbyshire ; which Willoughby thus defcribes. 
"It was made of great flicks, refling one end on the edge of a 
rock, the other on two birch-trees. Upon thefe was a layer 
<c of rufhes, and over them was a layer of heath, and upon the 
." heath rufhes again; upon which lay one young one, and an ad- 
die egg ; and by them a lamb, a hare, and three heath-pouts. 
. The neft was about two yards fquare, and had no hollow in it. 
& The young eagle was of the fliape of a gofliawk, of almoft the 
# weight of a, goofe> rough footed^ or feathered down to the foo 3 


having a white ring about the tail." Such is the place where 
the female eagle dcpofits her eggs ; which feldom exceed two at 
a time in the large fpecies, and not above three in the fmalleft. 
It is faid that fhe hatches them for thirty days : but frequently, 
even of this fmall number of eggs, a part is addled ; and it is ex- 
tremely rare to find three eaglets in the fame neft. It is alert- 
ed, that as fcon as the young ones are fomewhat grown, the mo- 
ther kills the moft feeble or the moft voracious. If this happens 
it muft proceed only from the neceffiries of the parent, who is in- 
capable of providing for their fupport ; and is content to facrifice 
4 part to the welfare of the reft. 

The plumage of the eaglets is not fo ftrongly marked as when 
they come to be adult. They are at firft white; then inclining to 
yellow ; and at laft of a light brown. Age, hunger, long captivity, 
and dikafes, make them whiter. It is faid they live above an 
hundred years ; and that they at laft die, not of old age, but from 
the beaks turning inward upon the under mandible, and thus pre- 
venting their taking any food. They are equally remarkable, 
fays Mr. Pennant, for their longevity, and for their power of fuf- 
taming a long abfence from food. One of this fpecies, which has 
now been nine years in the pofTeilion of Mr. Owen Holland, of 
Con way, lived thirty-two years with the gentleman who made 
him a prefent of it; but what its age was when the latter received 
it from Ireland is unknown. The fame bird alfo furniflies a 
proof of the truth of the other remark ; having once, through the 
neglect of fervants, endured hunger for twenty-one days, with- 
out any fuftenance whatever. Thofe eagles which are kept tame, 
are fed with every kind of fiefh, whether frefh or corrupting ; 
and when there is a deficiency of that, bread, or any other provi- 
fion, will fufHce. It is very dangerous approaching them if not 
quite tame; and they fometimes fend forth a loud piercing lamen- 
table cry, which renders them ftill more formidable. , The eagle 
drinks but feldom ; and perhaps, when at liberty, not at all, as 
the blood of his prey ferves to quench his thirft. His excrements 
are always foft and moift, and tinged with that whitilh fubftancc 
which, as was faid before, mixes in birds with the urine. 

Such are the general charatferiftics and habitudes of the eagle; 
however, inibme thefe habitudes differ, as the fca-eagle and the 


ofprey live chiefly upon fifh, and confcquently build their nefts 
on the fea-fhore, and by the fides of rivers, on the ground among 
reeds ; and often lay three or four eggs, rather lefs than thofe of a 
ben, of a white eliptical form. They catch their prey, which is 
chiefly fi/h, by darting down upon them from above. The Itali- 
ans compare the violent defcent of thefe birds upon their prey, to 
the fall of lead into water 5 and call them aquila plomblna, or 
the Leaden Eagle. 

Nor is the bald eagle, which is an inhabitant of North Caro- 
lina, lefs remarkable for habits peculiar to itfelf. Thefe birds 
breed in that country all the year round. When the eaglets are 
juft covered with down and a fort of white woolly feathers, the 
female eagle lays again. Thefe eggs are left to be hatched by the 
v/armth of the young ones that continue in the nefl ; fo that the 
flight of one brood makes room for the next, that are but juft hatch- 
ed. Thefe birds fly very heavily ; fo that they cannot overtake 
their prey, like others of the fame denomination. To remedy 
this, they often attend a fort of nfhing-hawk, which they purfue 
and drip the plunderer of its prey. This is the more remarkable, 
as this hawk flies fwifter than they. Thefe eagles alfo generally 
attend upon fowlers in the winter ; and when any birds are woun- 
ded, they are furc to be feized by the eagle, though they may fly 
from the fowler. This bird will often alfo fleal young pigs, and 
carry them alive to the nefl, which is compofed of twigs, flicks 
and rubbifh : it is large enough to fill the body of a cart ; and is 
commonly full of bones half eaten, and putrid flefli, the flench of 
which is intolerable. 

The diflinctive marks of each fpecies are as follow: 

The golden eagle : of a tawny, iron colour : the head and neck 
of a reddiih iron ; the tail feathers of a dirty white, marked with 
crofs bands of tawny iron ; the legs covered with tawny iron 

The common eagle : of a brown colour ; the head and upper 
part of the neck inclining to red ; the tail feathers white, blacken- 
in^ at the ends ; the outer ones, on each fide, of an afh colour \ 
the k" T s covered with feathers of a reddiih brown, 


The laid eagle: brown: the head, neck, and tail feathers 
white ; the feathers of the upper part of the leg brown. 

The white eagle : the whole white. 

The kough-footsd eagle : of a dirty brown : fpatted under the 
wings, and on the legs, with white; the feathers of the tail 
white at the beginning and the point; the leg feathers dirty- 
brown, fpotted with white. 

The white-tailed eagle : dirty brown : head white ; the frems 
of the feathers black; the rump inclining to black; the tail 
feathers, the firft half black, the end half white ; legs naked. 

The erne : a dirty iron colour above, an iron mixed with 
black below: the head and neck afh, mixed with chefnut; the 
points of the wings blackifh ; the tail feathers white; the legs 

The black eagle : blackifh : the head and upper neck mixed 
with red; the tail feathers, f the firft half white, fpcckled with 
black ; the other half, blackifh ; the leg feathers dirty white. 

The fea-eagle : inclining to white, mixed with iron brown; 
belly white, with iron coloured fpots ; the covert feathers of the 
tail whitiih; the tail feathers black at the extremity; the upper 
part of the leg feathers of an iron brown. 

The ofprey : brown above ; white below ; the back of the 
head white ; the outward tail feathers, on the inner fide, flreaked 
with white; legs naked. 

The jean le blanc : above, brownifh grey; below, white, 
fpotted with tawny brown ; the tail feathers, on the ou tilde, 
and at the extremity, brown ; on the infide, white, ftreaked 
with brown ; legs naked. 

The eagle of Erafil: blackifh brown : afh colour, mixed in 
the wings ; tail feathers white ; legs naked. 

The Oroonoko eagle : with a topping, above, blackifh brown; 
below, white, fpotted with black; upper neck yellow; tail fa- 
thers brown, with white circles; leg feathers white, fpotted 
with black. 


The crowned African eagle, with a topping; the tail of an 
afh colour, ftreaked on the upper fide with black. 

The eagle of Pondicherry : chefhut colour: the fix outward 
tail feathers black one half. 


The Condor of America. 

WE might now come to fpeak of the vulture kind, as 
they hold the next rank to the eagle ; but we are inter- 
rupted in our method, by the confideration of an enormous bird, 
whofe place is not yet afcertained ; as naturalifts are in doubt 
whether to refer it to the eagle tribe, or to that of the vulture. 
Its great ftrerigth, force, and vivacity, might plead for its place 
among the former ; the baldnefs of its head and neck might be 
thought to degrade it among the latter. In this uncertainty, it 
will be enough to defcribe the bird, by the lights we have, and 
leave future hiftorians to fettle its rank in the feathered creation. 
Indeed, if fize and ftrength, combined with rapidity of flight and 
rapacity, deferve pre-eminence, no bird can be put in competition 
with it. 

The condor pofTefTes, in an higher degree than the eagle, 
all the qualities that render it formidable, not only to the fea- 
thered kind, but to hearts, and even to man himfelf. Acofta, 
Garcilaffo, and Defmarchais, afTert, that it is eighteen feetacrofs, 
the wings extended. The beak is fo ftrong as to pierce the body 
of a cow ; and two of them are able to devour it. They do 
not even abftain from man himfelf: but fortunately there are but 
few of the fpecies ; for if they had been plenty, every order of 
animals muft have carried on an unfuccefsful war againft them. 
The Indians affert, that they will carry off a deer, or a young calf, 
in their talons, as eagles would an hare or a rabbit ; that their fight 
is piercing, and their air terrible ; that they feldom frequent the 
forefb, as they require a large fpace for the difplay of their wings ; 


but that they are found on the fearfhore, and the banks of rivers, 
whither they defcend from the heights of the mountains. By 
later accounts we learn, that they come down to the fea-fhore 
only at certain feafons, when their prey happens to fail them upon 
land , that they then feed upon dead fifh, and fuch other nutri- 
tious fubftances as the fea throws up on the more. We are af- 
fured, however, that their countenance is not fb terrible as the 
old writers have reprefented it ; but that they appear of a milder 
nature than either the eagle or the vulture. 

Condamine has frequently feen them in feveral parts of the 
mountains of Quito, and obferved them hovering over a flock of 
fheep; and he thinks they would, at a certain time, have at- 
tempted to carry one off", had they not been feared av/ay by the 
fhepherds. Labat acquaints us, that thofe who have feen this 
animal, declare that the body is as large as that of a fheep; and 
that the flefh is tough, and as difagreeable as carrion. The Spa- 
niards themfelves feem to dread its depredations; and there have 
been many inftances of its carrying ofF their children. 

Mr. Strong, the mafter of a fhip, as he was failing along the 
coafts of Chili, in the thirty-third degree of fouth latitude, ob- 
ferved a bird fitting upon a high cliff near the ihore, which fome 
of the (hip's company fhot with a leaden bullet and killed. They 
were greatly furprized when they beheld its magnitude; for 
when the wings were extended, they meaftired thirteen feet from 
one tip to the other. One of the quills was two feet four inches 
long ; and the barrel, or hollow part, was fix inches and three 
quarters, and an inch and an half in circumference. 

We have a ftill more circumitantial account of this amazing 
bird, by P. Feuillee, the only traveller who has accurately de- 
fcribed it : " In the valley of Ilo, in Peru, I difcovered a condor, 
" perched on a high rock before me : I approached within gun- 
" fhot, and fired ; but as my piece was only charged with fwan- 
" fhot, the lead was not able fufficiently to pierce the bird's fea- 
" thers. I perceived, however, by its manner of flying, that it was 
" wounded ; and it was with a good deal of difficulty that it flew 
u to another rock, about five hundred yards diftant, on the fea-. 
cc fhore. I therefore charged again with ball, and hit the bird 



* c under the throat, which made it mine. I accordingly run up 
tc to flize it ; but, even in death it was terrible, and defended 
" itfeif upon its back, with its claws extended againft me, fa 
" that I fcarce knew how to lay hold of it. Had it not been 
<c mortally wounded, I fhould have found it no eafy matter to 
c take it: but I at laft dragged it down from the rock, and with 
ic the afliftance of one of the feamen, I carried it to my tent, to 
tc make a coloured drawing. 

" The wings of this bird, which I meafured very exactly, were 
4t twelve feet three inches (Englifh) from tip to tip. The great 
tt feathers, that were of a beautiful mining black, were two feet 
cc four inches long. The thickncfs of the beak was proportional 
" ble to the reft of the body ; the length about four inches ; th* 
" point hooked downwards, and was white at its extremity j and 
u the other part was of a jet black. A (hort down, of a brawn co- 
" lour, covered the head ; the eyes were black* and furrounded 
* 4 with a circle of rcddim brown. The feathers, on the breaft, 
<c neck, and wings, were of a light brown ; thofe on the back 
" were rather darker. Its thighs were covered with brown fea- 
" thers to the knee. The thigh bone was ten inches long ; the 
" ICQ; five inches ; the toes were three before, and one behind : 
" behind was an inch and an half: and the claw with which 
" it was armed, was black, and three quarters of an inch. The 
" other claws were in the fame proportion-; and the leo- was co- 
" vered with black fcales, as alfo the toes; but in thefc the fcales 
" were larger. 

" Thefe birds ufually keep in the mountains, where they find 
il their prey: they never defcend to the fea-more, but in the rainy 
" feafon , for as they are very fcrifible of cold, they go there for 
u greater warmth^ Though thefe mountains are fituated in the 
" torrid zone, the cold is often very fevere; for a great part of 
u the year, they are covered with fnow, but particularly in win- 

" The little nourifhment which thefe birds find on the fea- 
" coaft, except when the temped drives in fome great fifh, 
* l obliges the condor to continue there but a fhort time. They 
" ufually come to the coaft at the approach c.f evening ; flay there 
" all night, and fly back in the morning." 


It is doubted whether this animal be proper to America only, 
or whether it may not have been defcribed by the naturalifts of 
other countries. It is fuppofed, that the great bird called the 
Rock, defcribed by Arabian writers, and Co much exaggerated 
by fable, is but a fpecies of the condor. The great bird of Tar- 
naflar, in the Eaft Indies, that is larger than the eagle, as well as 
the vulture of Senegal, that carries off children, are probably no 
other than the bird we have been defcribing. Ruffia, Lapland, 
and even Switzerland and Germany, are faid to have known this 
animal. A bird of this kind was mot in France, that weighed 
eighteen pounds, and was faid to be eighteen feet acrofs the 
wings : however, one of the quills was defcribed only as being 
larger than that of a fwan; fo that probably the breadth of the 
wings may have been exagerated, fince a bird fo Large would have 
the quills more than twice as big as thofe of a fwan. However 
this be, we are not to regret that it is fcarcely ever feen in Eu- 
rope ; as it appears to be one of the mofl formidable enemies of 
mankind. In the deferts of Pachomach, where it is chiefly feen, 
men feldom venture to travel, Thofc wild regions are very fuf- 
ficient of themfelves to infpire a fecret horror ; broken precipices 
prowling panthers forefts only vocal with the hiffino- of fer- 
pents -and mountains rendered ftill more terrible by the condor 
the only bird that ventures to make its refidence in thofe de 
ferted fituations. 


Of the Culture and its Affinities. 

TH E rft rank in the defcription of birds, has been given 
to the eagle; not becaufe it is ftronger or larger than the 
vulture, but becaufe it is more generous and bold, The eao;lc, un- 
lefs preffcdby famine, will not fbop to carrion; and never de- 
vou rs but what he has earned by his own purfuit. The vulture, 
on the contrary, is indelicately voracious ; and fcldom attacks 
living animals, when it can be fupplied with dead. The caoj c 


meets and nngly oppofes his enemy; the vulture, if it expects. 
refinance, calls in the aid of its kind, anclbafejy overpowers its 
prey by a cowardly combination. Putrefaction and flench, iVi- 
itcad of deterring, only fcrve to allure them. 'The vulture feerns 
among birds what tbejackall and hysna arc among quadrupeds,, 
who prey upon carcafes and root up the dead. 

Vultures may be eafily diflingilifhed from all tnofc of the eap-le 
kind, by the nakednefs of their heads and necks, which are v/ith- 
out feathers, and only covered with a very (light down, or a few 
fcattered hairs. Their eyes are more prominent; thofe of the ea- 
gle being buried more in the focket. Their claws are fhorter, 
and lefs hooked. The imlde of the wing is covered with a thick 
down, which is different in them from all other birds of prey. 
Their attitude is not fo upright as that of the eagle; and their 
fiip-ht more difficult and heavy. 


In this tribe we may rans;e the golden, the afli-coloured, and 
the brown vulture, which are inhabitants of Europe; the fpotted 
and the black vulture of Egypt ; the bearded vulture ; the Bra- 
filian vulture, and the king of the vultures, of South America. 
They all agree in their nature ; being equally indolent, yet rapa~ 
cious and unclean. 

The golden vulture feems to be the foremofl of the kind ; and 
is in many things like the golden eagle, but larger in every pro- 
portion, From the end of the beak to that of the tail, is four feet 
and an half; and to the claws end, forty-five inches. The length 
of the upper mandible is almofl feven inches ; and the tail twen- 
ty- feven in length, The lower part of the neck, breaft and belly, 
are of a red colour ; but on the tail it is more faint, and deeper 
near the head. The feathers are black on the back ; and on the 
wings and tail, of a yellowim brown. Others of the kind differ 
from this in colour and dimenfions; but they are all flrongly 
marked by their naked heads, and beak ftraight in the beginning, 
but hooking at the point, 

They are flill more ftrongly marked by their nature, which, 
as has been obferved, is cruel, unclean, and indolent. Their 
fenfe of fmelling, hov/ever, is amazingly great ; and nature, for 
this purpofe, has given them two large apertures or noflriis with- 


out, and an cxrcnfive olfactory membrane within. Their intcf- 
tines are formed differently from thofe of the eagle kind; for they 
partake more of the formation of fuch birds as live upon grain. 
They have both a crop and a ftomach ; which may be regarded 
as a kind of gizzard, from the extreme thick nefs of the-mufcles 
of which it is compofed. In fa&, they feem adapted inwardly, 
not only for being carnivorous, but to eat corn, or whatfoever of 
that kind comes in their way. 

This bird, which is common in many parts of Europe, and but 
too well known on the weftern continent, is totally unknown in 
in England. In Egypt, Arabia, and many other kingdoms of 
Africa and Afia, vultures are found in great abundance. The 
infide down of their wing is converted into a very warm and 
comfortable kind of fur, and is commonly fold in the Aflatic 

Indeed, in Egypt, this bird feems to be cf fmgular fervice. 
There are great flocks of them in the neighbourhood of Grand 
Cairo, which no perfon is permitted to deflroy. The fervice they 
render the inhabitants, is the devouring all the carrion and filth 
of that great city ; which might otherwife tend to corrupt and 
putrify the air. They are commonly feen in company with the 
wild dogs of the country, tearing a carcafe very deliberately to- 
gether. This odd afibciation produces no quarrels ; the birds and 
quadrupeds feem to live amicably, and nothing but harmony Tub - 
fifts between them. The wonder is ftill the greater, as both are 
extremely rapacious, and both lean and bony to a very great de- 
gree ; probably having no great plenty even of the wretched 
food on which they fubfift. 

In America, they lead a life fomewhat fimilar. Wherever 
the hunters, who there often purfue beads for the fkins alone, are 
found to go, thefe birds purfue them. They ftill keep 
hovering at a little diftance; and when they fee the beaft flead 
and abandoned, they call out to each other, pour down upon the 
carcafe ; and, in an initant, pick its bones as bare and clean as if 
they had been (craped with a knife. 

At the Cape of Good Hope, in Africa, they feem todifcover a 
ftill greater (hare of dexterityjn their methods of carving. " I have" 


fays Kolben, " been often a fpe&ator of the manner in which 
u they have anatomized a dead body : 1 fay anatomized, for no 
" artifl in the world could have done it more cleanly. They have 
u a wonderful method of feparating the flcfh from the bones, and 
" yet leaving the (kin quite entire. Upon coming near the car- 
cc cafe, one would not fuppofe it thus deprived of its internal fub- 
" fiance, till he began to examine it moreclofcly; he then finds 
<c it, literally fpeaking, nothing but fkin and bone. Their man- 
" ner of performing this operation, is this : they firft make an 
" opening in the belly of the animal, from whence they pluck 
" out and greedily devour the entrails ; then entering into the 
tc hollow which they have made, they feparate the flefh from the 
< bones, without ever touching the fkin. It often happens that 
" 2n ox returning home alone to its ftall from the plough, lies 
<c down by the way: it is then, if the vultures perceive it, that 
<( they fall with fury down, and inevitably devour the unfortu- 
a nate animal. They fometimes attempt them grazing in the 
" fields ; and then to the number of an hundred, or more, make 
" their attack all at once and together." 

" They are attracted by carrion," fays Catefby, " from % 
" great diftance. It is pleafant to behold them, when they are 
" thus eating, and difputing for their prey. An eagle generally 
" prefides at thefe entertainments, and makes them all keep their 
" diftance till he has done. They then fall to with an excellent 
" appetite: and their fenfe of fmelling is fo exquifite, that the 
" inftant a carcafe drops, we may fee the vultures floating in the 
K air from 'all quarters, and fome foufing on their prey." It is 
fuppofed by fome, that they eat nothing that has life ; but this 
is only when they are not able : for when they can come at lambs, 
they fliow no mercy ; and fcrpents are their ordinary food. The 
manner of thofe birds is to perch themfelves, feveral together, on 
the old pine and cyprefs-trees ; where they continue all the morn- 
ing, for feveral hours, with their wings unfolded: nor are they 
fearful of danger, but fuffer people to approach them very near, 
particularly when they are eating. 

The doth, the filth, and the voracioufnefs of thefe birds, almoft 
exceed credibility. la die Brafils, where they are found in 


great abundance, when they light upon a carcafe, which they 
have liberty to tear at their cafe, they fo gorge themfclves^ that 
they are unable to fly ; but keep hopping along when they are pur- 
fued. At all times, they are birds of flow flight, and unable 
readily to raife themfelves from the ground ; but when they have 
over-fed, they are then utterly helplefs : but they foon get rid 
of their burden ; for they have a method of vomiting up what they 
have eaten, and then they fly off with greater facility. 

It is pi enfant, however, to be a fpe<5tator of the hoflilities be- 
tween animals that are thus hateful or noxious. Of all creatures, 
the two mofr. at enmity, is the vulture of Brafil, and the croco- 
dile. The female of this terrible amphibious creature, which in the 
rivers of that part of the world grows to the fize of twenty-feven 
feet, lays its eggs, to the number of one or two hundred, in the 
fands, on the fide of the river, where they are hatched by the heat 
of the climate. For this purpofe, (he takes every precaution to 
hide from all other animals the place where (he depofits her bur- 
den : in the mean time, a number of vultures, or galinaflbs, as 
the Spaniards call them, fit, filent and unfeen, in the branches of 
fonie neighbouring foreft, and view the crocodile's operations, 
with the pleafmg expectations of fucceeding plunder. They 
patiently wait till the crocodile has laid the whole number of her 
eggs, till {he has covered them carefully under the fand, and un- 
til fhe has retired from them to a convenient diftance. Then, all 
together encouraging each other with cries, they pour down up- 
on the neft, hook up the fand in a moment, lay the eggs bare, 
and devour the whole brood without remorfe. Wretched as is the 
flefti of thefe animals, yet men, perhaps when preffed by hunger, 
have been tempted to taite it. Nothing can be more lean, ftrin- 
gy, naufeous, and unlavory. It is in vain that, when killed^ the 
rump has been cut off; in vain the body has been wafhcd, and 
fpices ufed to overpower its prevailing odour; it ftill fmells and 
taftes of the carrion by which it was nourifhed, and fends forth a 
flench that is infupportable. 

Thefe birds, at leaft thofe of Europe, ufaally lay two eggs at 
a time, and produce but once a year. They make their ncfrs 
in inacceiTibls cliffs, and in places fo remote, that it is rare to 


find them. Thofe in our part of the world, chiefly refide in the 
places where they breed, and felclom come down into plains, ex- 
cept when the fnow and ice, in their native retreats, have banifh- 
ed all living animals but themfelves : they then come from their 
heights, and. brave the perils they muft encounter in a more cul- 
tivated region. As carrion is riot found, at thofe fcafons, in fuf- 
fieient quantity, or fufficiently remote from mun, to fufrain 
them, they prey upon rabbits, hares, ferpents, and whatever 
finall game they can overtake or overpower. 

Such are the manners of this bird in general ; but there is 
one of the kind, called the kin* of vultures, which, from its ex- 
traordinary figure, deferves a fcparate description. This bird is 
a native of America, and not of the E aft- Indies, as thofe who 
make a trade of mowing birds, would induce us to believe. This 
bird is larger than a turkey-cock ; but is chiefly remarkable for 
the odd formation of the fkin of the head and neck, which is bate. 
This fkin arifes from the bafc of the bill, and is of an orange co- 
lour; from whence it ftretches on each fide to the head: from 
thence it proceeds, like an indented comb, and falls on either 
fide, according to the motion of the head. The eyes are fur- 
rounded by a red (kin, of a fcarlet colour; and the iris has the 
colour and lufrre of pearl. The head and neck are without fea- 
thers, covered with a flefh -coloured fkin on the upper part, a 
fine fcarlet behind the head, and a dufkier coloured fkin before : 
farther down behind the head, arifes a little tuft of black down, 
from whence iiTues and extends beneath the throat, on each fide, 
a wrinkled fkin, of a brownim colour, mixed with blue, and 
reddim behind : below, upon the naked part of the neck, is a col- 
lar, formed by foft iongifh feathers, of a deep afh-colour, which 
fiirrotmd the neck, and cover the bread before. Into this collar 
the bird fornetimes withdraws its whole neck, and fometimes a 
part of its head ; fo that it looks as if it had withdrawn the neck 
into the body. Thofe marks are fuificient to diftinguifli this 
bird from all others of the vulture kind ; and it cannot be doubt- 
ed, but that it is the moil beautiful of ail this deformed family: 
however, neither its habits nor iuftin&s vary from the reft of the 
tribe-, beinjr, like them, a flow cowardly bird, living chiefly up-' 


rats, lizards, and ferpents ; and upon carrion or excrement, 
when it happens in the way. The flefh is fo bad, that even fa-^ 
vages themfelves cannot abide it. 


Of the Falcon Kind and its Affinities. 

EVERY creature becomes more important in the hiftory 
of nature in proportion as it is connected with man. In 
this view, the fmalleft vegetable, or the moft feemingly con- 
temptible infect, is a fubjecl: more deferving attention than the 
moft flourifhing tree, or the moft beautiful of the feathered cre- 
ation. In this view, the falcon is a more important animal 
than the eagle or the vulture ; and, though fo very diminutive 
in the comparifon, is, notwithftanding, from its connexion with 
our pleafures, a much more interefting object of curiofity. 

The amufement of hawking, indeed, is now pretty much giv- 
en over in this kingdom : for, as every country refines, as its 
enclofures become higher and clofer, thofe rural fports muft con- 
fequently decline, in which the game is to be purfued over a 
long extent of country, and where? while every thing retards the 
purfuer below, nothing can flop the objecl: of his purfuit above. 

Falconry, which is now fo much difufed among us, was the 
principal amufement of our anceftors. A perfon of rank fcarce 
ftirred out without his hawk on his hand ; which, in old paint- 
ings, is the criterion of nobility. Harold, afterwards king of Eng- 
land, when he went on a moft important embafly into Norman- 
dy, is drawn in an old bas-relief, as embarking with a bird on his 
hand, and a dog under his arm. In thofe days, it was thought fuf- 
ficient for noblemen's fons to wind the horn, and to carry 
their hawk fair, and leave ftudy and learning to the children 
of meaner people. Indeed, this diverfion was in fuch high efteem 
among the great all over Europe, that Frederic, one of the em- 
perors of G ermany, thought it not beneath him to write 
tife upon hawking. 



The expenfe which attended this fport was very great ; among; 
the old Welch princes, the king's falconer was the fourth offi- 
cer in the ftate ; but, notwithftanding all his honours, he was 
forbid to take more than three draughts of beer from his horn, 
left he mould get drunk and neglect his duty. In the reign of 
James the firft, fir Thomas Monfon is faid to have given a thou- 
fand pounds for a caft of hawks ; and fuch was their value in ge- 
neral, that it was made felony in the reign of Edward the Third ' 
to fteal a hawk. To take its eggs, even in a pcrfon's own 
ground, was punifhable with imprifonment for a year and a day, 
together with a fine at the king's pleafure. In the reign of Eli- 
zabeth, the imprifonment was reduced to three months ; but the 
offender was to lie in prifon until he got fecurity for his good be- 
haviour for feven years farther. In the earlier times, the art of 
gunning was but little praclifed, and the hawk then was valua- 
ble, not only for its affording diverfion, but for its procuring de- 
licacies for the table, which could feldom be obtained any other 

Of many of the ancient falcons ufed for this purpofe we at this 
time know only the names, as the exa& fpecies are fo ill defcrib- 
ed, that one may be very eafily miftaken for another. Of thofe in 
ufe at prefent, both here and in other countries, are the gyr-fal- 
con, the falcon, the lanner, the facre, the hobby, the keftriel, and 
the merlin. Thefe are called the long- winged hawks, to dif- 
tinguifh them from the gofs-hawk, the fparrow hawk, the kite, 
and the buzzard, that are of fhorter wing, and either too flow, 
too cowardly, too indolent, or too obftinate, to be ferviceable in 
contributing to the pleafures of the field. 

The generous tribe of hawks, as was faid, are diftinguifhed 
from the reft by the peculiar length of their wings, which reach 
nearly as low as the tail. In thefe, the firft quill of the wing is 
nearly as long as the fecond ; it terminates in a point which be- 
gins to diminifh from about an inch of its extremity. This fuf- 
ficiently diftinguifhes the generous breed, from the bafer race 
of kites, fparrow-hawks, and buzzards, in whom the tail is 
longer than the wings, and the firft feather of the wing is rounded 
at the extremity. They differ alfo in the latter having the fourth 


feather of the wing the longeft j in the generous race it is al- 
ways the fecond. 

This generous race, which have been taken into the fervke of 
man, are endowed with natural pov/ers that the other kinds are 
not pofTefled of. From the length of their wings, they are fwif- 
ter to purfue their game ; from a confidence in this fwiftnefs, 
they are bolder to attack it ; and from an innate generofity, they 
have an attachment to their feeder, and confequently a docility 
which the bafer birds are ftrangers to. 

The gyr-falcon leads in this bold train. He exceeds all other 
falcons in the largenefs of his fize, for he approaches nearly to the 
magnitude of the eagle. The top of the head is flat and of an afh 
colour, with a ftrong, thick, fhort, and blue beak. The feathers 
of the back and wings are marked with black fpots, in the mape 
of an Jieart ; he is a courageous and fierce bird, nor fears even the 
eagle himfelf ; but he chiefly flies at theftork, the heron, and the 
crane. He is moftly found in the colder regions of the north, but 
lofes neither his ftrength nor his courage when brought into the 
milder climates. <s 

The falcon, properly fo called, is the fecond in magnitude and 
fame. There are fome varieties in this bird > but there feem to 
be only two that claim diftin&ion ; the falcon gentil and the pe- 
regrine falcon; both are much lefs than the gyr, and fome what 
about the fize of a raven. They differ but flightly, and perhaps 
only from the different ftates they were in when brought into 
captivity. Thofe differences are eafier known by experience than 
taught by defcription. The falcon gentil moults in March, and 
often fooner ; the peregrine falcon does not moult till the middle 
of Auguft. The peregrine is ftronger in the (boulder, has a 
larger eye, and yet more funk in the head ; his beak is ftronger, 
his legs longer, and the toes better divided. 

Next in fize to thefe is the lanner, a bird now very little known 
in Europe ; then follows the facre, the legs of which are of a blu- 
ifh colour, and ferve to diftinguifh that bird ; to them fucceeds 
the hobby, tifed for fmaller game, for daring larks, and (looping 
at quails. The keftriel was trained for the fame purpofes ; and 
laftly the merlin i which> though the fmalleft of all the hawk or 


falcon kind, and not much larger than a thfufh, yet difplays a de* 
gree of courage that renders him formidable even to birds ten 
times his fize. He has often been known to kill a partridge or 
a quail at a fmgle pounce from above. 

Some of the other fpecies of fluggim birds were now and then 
trained to this fport, but it was when no better could be obtained; 
but thefe juft defcribed were only confidered as birds of the nobler 
races. Their courage in general was fuch, that no bird, not very 
much above their own fize, could terrify them: their fwiftnefs fo 
great, that fcarce any bird could efcape them ; and their docility 
fo remarkable, that they obeyed not only the commands, but the 
figns of their mafter. They remained quietly perched upon his 
hand till their game was flumed, or elfe kept hovering round his 
head, without ever leaving him but when he gave permiflion. 
The common falcon is a bird of fuch fpirit, that, like a conqueror 
in a country, he keeps all birds in awe and in fubjecHon to his 
prowefs. Where he is feen flying wild, as I often had an oppor- 
tunity of obferving, the birds of every kind, that feemed entirely 
to difregard the kite or the fparrow-hawk, fly with fcreams at 
his moft diftant appearance. Long before I could fee the falcon, 
I have feen them with the utmoft figns of terror endeavouring to 
avoid him ; and, like the peafants of a country before a victori- 
ous army, every one of them attempting to fhift for himfelf. 
Even the young falcons, though their fpirit be deprefled by cap- 
tivity, will, when brought out into the field, venture to fly at bar- 
nacles and wild geefe, till, being foundly brufhed and beaten by 
thofe ftrong birds, they learn their error, and defift from meddling 
with fuch unwieldly game for the future. 

To train up the hawk to this kind of obedience, fo as to hunt 
for his mafter, and bring him the game he mail kill, requires no 
fmall degree of fidll and affiduity. Numberlefs treatifes have 
been written upon this fubjecl:, which are now, with the fport it- 
felf, almoft utterly forgotten : indeed, except to a few, they 
feem utterly unintelligible ; for the falconers had a language pe- 
culiar to themfelves, in which they converfed and wrote, and took 
a kind of profeifional pride in ufing no other. A modern reader, 
I fuppofc, would be little edified by one of the inftru&ions, for 


*nftance, which we find in Willoughby, when he bids us draw 
eur falcon out of the mew twenty days before we enfeam her. 
If Jhe trufs and carry, the remedy /j, to coffe her talons^ her 
powfe, and petty fingle. 

But, as it certainly makes a part of natural hiftory to mow 
how much the nature of birds can be wrought upon by harm or 
kind treatment, I will jutt take leave to give a fhort account of 
the manner of training an hawk, divefted of thofe cant words 
with which men of art have thought proper to obfcure their pro- 

In order to train up a falcon, the matter begins by putting 
ftraps upon his legs, which are called jelTes, to which there is 
fattened a ring with the owner's name, by which, in cafe he mould 
be loft, the finder may know where to bring him back. To 
thefe alfo are added little bells, which ferve to mark the place 
where he is, if loft in the chafe. He is always carried on the lift, 
and is obliged to keep without fleeping. If he be ftubborn, and 
attempts to bite, his head is plunged into water. Thus, by 
hunger, watching and fatigue, he is conftrained to fubmit to 
having his head covered by a hood or cowl, which covers his 
eyes This troublefome employment continues often for three 
days and nights without ccafmg. It rarely happens but at the 
end of this his neceffities, and the privation of light, make him 
lofe all idea of liberty, and bring down his natural wildnefs. His 
mafter judges of his being tamed when he permits his head to be 
covered without refiftance, and when, uncovered, he feizes the 
meat before him contentedly. The repetition of thefe leilbns by 
degrees infures fuccefs. His wants being the chief principle of 
his dependence, it is endeavoured to increafe his appetite by 
giving him little balls of flannel, which he greedily f wallows. 
Having thus excited the appetite, care is taken to fatisfy it ; 
and thus gratitude attaches the bird to the man who but juft 
before had been his tormentor. 

When the firft lefTons have fucceeded, and the bird mows 
figns of docility, he is carried out upon fome green, the head 
is uncovered, and, by flattering him with food at different times, 
he is taught to jump on the fift, and to continue there. When 


confirmed in this habit, it is then thought time to make him ac- 
quainted with the lure. This lure is only a thing fluffed like the 
bird the falcon is defigned to purfue, fuch as an heron, a pigeon, 
or a quail, and on this lure they always take care to give him 
his food. It is quite neceffary that the bird mould not only be 
acquainted with this, but fond of it, and delicate in his food when 
flaovvn it. When the falcon has flown upon this, and tailed the firfl 
morfel, fome falconers then take it away; but by this there is a 
danger of daunting the bird ; and the furefl method is, when he flies 
to feize it to let him feed at large, and this ferves as a recompenfe 
for his docility. The ufe of this lure is to flatter him back when 
he has flown in the air, which it fometimes fails to do; and it is 
always requifite to afiifl it by the voice and the figns of the maf- 
ter. When thefe leflbns have been long repeated, it is then ne- 
ceflary to fludy the character of the bird ; to fpeak frequently to 
him if he be inattentive to the voice ; to flint in food fuch as do not 
come kindly or readily to the lure; to keep waking him if he be 
not fufEciently familiar; and to cover him frequently with the 
hood if he fears darknefs. When the familiarity and the docility 
of the bird are fufHciently confirmed on the green, he is then car- 
ried into the open fields, but ftill kept fafl by a firing which is 
about twenty yards long. He is then uncovered as before ; and 
the falconer calling him at fome paces diflance, (hews him the 
lure. When he flies upon it, he is permitted to take a large mor- 
fel of the food which is tied to it. The next day the lure is 
fhown him at a greater diflance, till he comes at lafl to fly to it 
at the utmofl length of his firing. He is then to be fnewn the 
game itfelf alive, but difahled or tame, which he is defigned to 
purfue. After having feized this feveral times with his firing, 
he is then left entirely at liberty, and carried into the field for the 
purpcfes of purfuing that which is wild. At that he flies with 
avidity; and when he has feized it, or killed it, he is brought back 
by the voice and the lure. 

Bv this method of inflruclion, an hawk may be taught to fly 
at any game whatfoever ; but falconers have chiefly confined 
their purfuit only to fuch animals, as yield them profit by the 
capture, or pleafure in the purfuit. The hare, the partridge, and 
the quail, repay the trouble of taking them ; but the moft de- 


lightful fport is the falcon's purfuit of the heron, the kite, or the 
wood-lark. Inftead of flying directly forward, as fora, other 
birds do, thefe, when they fee themfelves threatened by the ap- 
proach of the hawk, immediately take to the ikies. They fly 
almofl perpendicularly upward, while their ardent purfuer keeps 
pace with their flight, and tries to rife above them. Thus both 
uiminifh by degrees from the gazing fpetSlator below, till they 
are quite loft in the clouds ; but they are foon feen defcending 
ftruggling together, and ufmg every effort on both fides ; the 
one of rapacious infult, the other of defperate defence. The un- 
equal combat is foon at an end; the falcon comes off victorious, 
and the other, killed or di fabled, is made a prey either to the bird 
or the fportfman. 

As for other birds, they are not fo much purfued, as they ge- 
nerally fly ftraight forward, by which the fportfman lofes fight 
of the chace, and, what is ftill worfe, runs a chance of lofmg his 
falcon alfo. The purfuit of the lark by a couple of merlins is 
confidered, to him who regards only the fagacity of the chace, as 
one of the moft delightful fpec~tacles this exercife can afford. The 
amufement is to fee one of the merlins climbing to get the af- 
cendant of the lark, while the other, lying low for the heft ad- 
vantage, waits the fuccefs of its companion's efforts ; thus, while 
the one ftoops to ftrike its prey, the other feizes it at its coming 

Such are the natural and acquired habits of thefe birds, which 
of all others have the greateft ftrength and courage relative to 
their fize. While the kite or the gofs-hawk approach their prey 
fide-ways, thefe dart perpendicularly, in their wild flate, upon 
their game, and devour it on the fpot, or carry it off, if not too 
large for their power of flying. They are fometimes feen de- 
fcending perpendicularly from the clouds, from an amazing 
height, and darting down on their prey with inevitable fwiftnefs 
and deftru&ion. 

The more ignoble race of birds make up by cunning and afli- 
duity what thefe claim by force and celerity. Being lefs cou- 
rageous, they are more patient j and having lefs fwiftnefs, they 
are better (killed at taking their prey by furprife. The kite, whick 


may be diftinguiflied from all the reft of this tribe by his forky 
tail and his flow floating motion, feems almoft forever upon the 
wing. He appears to reft himfelf upon the bofom of the air, 
and not to make the fmalleft effort in flying. He lives only up- 
on accidental carnage, as almoft every bird in the air is able to 
make good its retreat againft him. He may be therefore confi- 
dered as an infidious thief, who only prowls about, and when he 
finds a fmall bird wounded, or a young chicken ftrayed too far 
from the mother, inftantly feizes the hour of calamity, and, like 
a famifhed glutton, is fure to mew no mercy. His hunger, in- 
deed, often urges him to acts of feeming defperation. I have feen 
one of them fly round and round for a while to mark a clutch of 
chickens, and then on a fudden dart like lightning upon the unre- 
fifting little animal, and carry it off; the hen in vain crying out, 
and the boys hooting and cafting ftones to fcare it from its plun- 
der. For this reafon, of all birds the kite is the good houfewife's 
greateft tormentor and averfion. 

Of all obfcene birds, the kite is the beft known ; but the buz- 
zard among us is the moft pL'ity. He is a fluggim inactive 
bird, and often remains perched whole days together upon the 
fame bough. He is rather an aflaffin than a purfuer ; and lives 
more upon frogs, mice, and infects, which he can eafily feize, 
than upon birds which he is obliged to follow. He lives in fum- 
mer by robbing the nefts of other birds, and fucking their eggs, 
and more rcfembles the owl kind in his countenance than any 
other rapacious bird of day. His figure implies the ftupidity of 
his difpofition; and fo little is he capable of inftruHon from man, 
that it is common to a proverb to call one who cannot be taught, 
or continues obftinately ignorant, a buzzard. The honey-buz- 
zard, the moor-buzzard, and the hen-harrier, are all of this ftupid 
tribe, and differ chiefly in their fize, growing lefs in the order I 
have named them. The gofs-hawk and fparrow-hawk are what 
mr. Willoughby calls mort- winged birds, and confequently un- 
fit for training, however injurious they may be to the pigeon- 
houfe or the fportfman. They have been, indeed, taught to fly 
at game ; but little is to be obtained from their efforts, being 
difficult of inftruction, and capricious in their obedience. It has 


been lately afTerted, however, by one, whofe authority is refpec- 
table, that the fparrow-hawk is the boldeft and the bcft cf all 
others, for the pleafure of the chace. 


The Butcher-Bird. 

BEFORE I conclude this fhort hiflory of rapacious birds 
that prey by day, I muft take leave to defcribe a tribe of 
frnaller birds, that feeni from their fize rather to be clafled with 
the harmlefs order of the fparrow kind ; but that from their crook- 
ed beak, courage, and appetite for {laughter certainly deferve a 
place here. The lefler butcher-bird is not much above the fize 
of a lark ; that of the fmrJleft fpecies is not fo big as a fparrow; 
yet, diminutive as thefe little animals are, they make themfelves 
formidable to birds of four times their dimenfions. 

The greater butcher-bird is about as large as a thrufh ; its 
bill is black, an inch long, and hooked at the end. This mark, 
together with its carnivorous appetites, ranks it among the ra- 
pacious birds ; at the fame time that its legs and feet, which are 
(lender, and its toes, formed fomewhat differently from the for- 
mer, would feem to make it the fliade between fuch birds as live 
wholly upon flefh, and fuch as live chiefly upon infects and grain'. 

Indeed, its habits feem entirely to correfpond with its confor- 
mation, as it is found to live as well upon flefh as upon'infeclrs, 
and thus to parta'ke in fome meafure of a double nature. How- 
ever, its appetite for flefh is the moft prevalent; and it never 
takes up with the former when it can obtain the latter. This 
bird, therefore, leads a life of continual combat and oppofition. 
As from its fize it does not much terrify the fmaller birds of the 
foreft, fo it very frequently meets birds willing to try its ftrength, 
and it never declines the engagement. 

It is wonderful to fee with what intrepidity this little creature 
goes to war with the pie, the crow, and the keflril, all above four 


times bigger than itfelf, and that fometimes prey upon flefh in 
the fame manner. It not only fights upon the defenfive, but of- 
ten comes to the attack, and always with advantage, particularly 
when the male and female unite to protect their young, and to 
drive away the more powerful birds of rapine. At that feafon, 
they do not wait the approach of their invader ; it is fufficient 
that they fee him preparing for the affault at a diftance. It is 
then that they fally forth with loud cries, wound him on every 
fide, and drive him off with fuch fury, that he feldom ventures 
to return to the charge. In thefe kinds of difputes, they general- 
ly come off with the vi&ory; though it fometimes happens that 
they fall to the ground with the bird they have fo fiercely fixed 
upon, and the combat ends with the destruction of the affailant 
as well as the defender. 

For this reafon, the moft redoubtable birds of prey refpeft 
them : while the kite, the buzzard, and the crow, feem rather 
to fear than to feek the engagement. Nothing in nature better 
difplays the refpecl: paid to the claims of courage, than to fee this 
little bird apparently fo contemptible, fly in company with the 
lanner, the falcon, and all the tyrants of the air, without fearing 
their power, or avoiding their refentment. 

As for fmall birds, they are its ufual food. It feizes them by 
the throat and ftrangles them in an inftant. When it has thus 
killed the bird or infect, it is afferted by good authority, that it 
fixes them uponfome neighbouring thorn, and, when thus fpitted, 
pulls them to pieces with its bill. It is fuppofed that as nature 
has not given this bird ftrength fufficient to tear its prey with its 
feet, as the hawks do, it is obliged to have recourfs to this extra- 
ordinary expedient. 

During fummer, fuch of them as conftantly refide here, for the 
fmaller red butcher-bird migrates, remaining among the moun- 
tainous parts of the country ; but in winter they defcend into the 
plains, and nearer human habitations. The larger kind make 
their nefts on the higheft trees, while the leffer build in buflies in 
the fields and hedge-rows. They both lay about fix eggs, of a 
white colour, but encircled at the bigger end with a ring of 
brownifh red. The nefl on the outfide is compofed of white mofs, 


interwoven with long grafs; within, it is well lined with wool, 
and is ufually fixed among the forking branches of a tree. The 
female feeds her young with caterpillars and other infects while 
very young ; but foon after accuftoms them to flefh, which the 
male procures with furprifing induftry. Their nature alfo is ve- 
ry different from other birds of prey, in their parental care ; for, 
fo far from driving out their young from the neft to fliift for 
themfelves, they keep them with care ; and even when adult they 
do not forfake them, but the whole brood live in one family toge- 
ther. Each family lives apart, and is generally compofed of the 
male, female, and five or fix young ones; thefe all maintain 
peace and fubordination among each other, and hunt in concert. 
Upon the returning feafon of courtmip, this union is at an end, 
the family parts forever, each to eftablifh a little houfehold of its 
own. It is eafy to diftinguifh thefe birds at a diftance, not only 
from their going in companies, but alfo from their mariner of fly- 
ing, which is always up and down, feldom direct or fideways. 

Of thefe birds there are three or four different kinds ; but the 
greater afh-coloured butcher-bird is the leaft known among us. 
The red backed butcher-bird migrates in autumn, and does 
not return till fpring. The woodchat refembles the former ex- 
cept in the colour of the back, which is brown, and not red as in 
the other. There is ftill another, lefs than either of the former, 
found in the marmes near London. This too is a bird of prey, 
although not much bigger than a titmoufe ; an evident proof 
that an animal's courage or rapacity does not depend upon its fize. 
Of foreign birds of this kind there are feveral ; but as we know 
little of their manner of living, we will not, inftead of hiftory, 
fubftitute mere defcription. In faft, the colours of a bird, which 
is all we know of them, would afford a reader but fmall enter- 
tainment in the enumeration. Nothing can be more eafy than 
to fill volumes with the different fhades of a bird's plumage; 
but thefe accounts are written with more pleafure than they are 
read ; and a fmgle glance of a good plate or pi&ure imprints a 
jufter idea than a volume could convey. 



Of Rapacious Birds of tie Owl Kind^ that prey by Night. 
I T li E R T O we have been defcribino- a tribe of animals 


who, though plunderers among their fellows of the air, 
yet wage war boldly in the face of day. We now come to a race 
equally cruel and rapacious ; but who add to their favage difpo- 
fition, the further reproach of treachery, and carry on all their de^ 
predations by night. 

All birds of the owl kind may be confidered as nocturnal rob- 
bers, who, unfitted for taking their prey while it is light, furprife 
it at thofe hours of reft when the tribes of nature are in the leafl 
expectation of an enemy. Thus there ieems no link in nature's 
chain broken j no where a dead inactive rcpofc ; but everyplace, 
every feafon, every hour of the day and night, is buflling with 
life, and furnifhing inftances of induftry, felf-defence, and inva- 

All birds of the owl kind have one common mark, by which 
they are diftinguifned from others ; their eyes are formed for 
feeing better in the dufk, than in the broad glare of fun-fhine. 
As in the eyes of tigers and cats, that are formed for a life of 
nocturnal depredation, there is a quality in the retina that takes 
in the rays of light fo copioufly as to permit their feeing in places 
almoft quite dark; fo in thefe birds there is the fame conforma- 
tion of that organ, and though, like us, they cannot fee in a total 
cxclufion of light, yet they are fufHciently quick-fighted, at 
times, when we remain in total obfcurity. In the eyes of all 
animals, Nature hath made a complete provifion, either to fliut 
out too much light, or to admit a fufficiency, by the contraction 
and dilatation of the pupil. In thefe birds the pupil is capable of 
opening very wide, or (hutting very clofe : by contracting the 
pupil, the brighter light of the day, which would act too power- 
erfully upon the femibility of the retina, is excluded : by dilating 


the pupil, the animal takes in the more faint rays of the night, 
and thereby is enahled to fpy its prey, and catch it with greater 
facility in the dark. Befide this, there is an irradiation on the 
back of the eye, and the very iris itfelf has a faculty of reflecting 
the rays of light, fb as to affift vifion in the gloomy places which 
thefe birds are found to frequent. 

But though owls are dazzled by too bright a day-light, yet 
they do not fee beft in the darkeft nights, as fome have been apt 
to imagine. It is in the dufk of the evening, or the grey of the 
morning, that they are beft fitted for feeing ; at thofe feafons 
when there is neither too much light nor too little. It is then 
that they ifTue from their retreats, to hunt or to furprize their 
prey, which is ufually attended with great fuccefs : it is then 
that they find all other birds afleep, or preparing for repofe, and 
they have only to feize the moft unguarded. 

The nights when the moon fliines are the times of their moil 
fuccefsful plunder : for when it is wholly dark, they are lefs qua- 
lified for feeing and purfuing their prey: except, therefore, by 
moonlight, they contract the hours of their chace ; and if they 
come out at the approach of duik in the evening, they return be- 
fore it is totally dark, and then rifs by twilight the next morning 
to purfue their game, and return in the like manner, before 
the broad day-light begins to dazzle them with its-fplendor. 

Yet the faculty of feeing in the night, or of being entirely daz- 
zled by day, is not alike in every fpecies of thefe no&urnal birds : 
fome fee by night better than others ; and fome are fo little daz- 
/zled by day-light, that they perceive their enemies and avoid 
them. The common white or barn owl, for inftance, fees with 
fuch exquifite accutenefs in the dark, that though the barn has 
been (hut at night, and the light thus totally excluded, yet it 
perceives thefmallefr, moufe that peeps from its hole: on the con- 
trary, the brown horned owl is often feen to prowl along the 
hedges by day, like the fparrow-hawk ; and fometimes with good 

All birds of the owl kind may be divided into two forts; thofe 

that have horns and thofe without. Thefr horns ar^ nothing 


more than two or three feathers that fland up on each fide of the 


head over the ear, and give this animal a kind of horned appear- 
ance. Of the horned kind, is the great horned owl, which at firft 
view appears as large as an eagle. When, he comes to be ob- 
ferved more clofely, however, he will appear much lefs. His 
legs, body, wings and tail, are fhorter ; his head much larger 
and thicker : his horns are compofed of feathers, that rife above 
two inches and an half high, and which he can erect or deprefs at 
pleafure ; his eyes are large and tranfparent, encircled with an 
orange coloured iris : his ears are large and deep, and it would 
appear that no animal was poffefled with a more exquifite fenfe of 
hearing : his plumage is of a reddifh brown, marked on the back 
with black and yellow fpots, and yellow only upon the belly. 

Next to this is the common horned owl, of a much fmaller 
fize than the former, and with horns much fhorter. As the great 
owl is five feet from, the tip of one wing to the other, this is but 
three. The horns are but about an inch long, and coniift of fix 
feathers, variegated with black and yellow. 

There is ftill a fmaller kind of the horned owl, which is not 
much larger than a blackbird ; and whofe horns are remarkably 
fhort, being compofed but of one feather, and that not above half 
an inch high. 

To thefe fucceeds the tribe without horns. The howlet, which 
is the largeft of this kind, with dufky plumes, and black eyes ; 
the fcreechowl, of a fmaller fize, with blue eyes, and plumage 
of an iron grey; the white owl, about as large as the former, 
with yellow eyes and whitifli plumage ; the great brownowl, lefs 
than the former, with brown plumage and a brown beak ; and 
laftly the little brown owl, with little yellowifh coloured eyes, 
and an orange coloured bill. To this catalogue might be added 
others of foreign denominations, which differ but little from our 
own, if we except the harfang, or great* Hudfon's Bay owl of 
Edwards, which is the largeft of all the nocturnal tribe, and 
as white as the fnows of the country of which he is a native* 

All this tribe of animals, however they may differ in their 
fize and plumage, agree in their general chara&eriftics, of prey- 
ing by night, and having their eyes formed for nocturnal vifion. 
Their bodies are ftrong and mufcular; their feet and claws made 
for tearing their prey; and their ilomachs for digefting it. It 


mufl be remarked, however, that the digeftion of all birds that 
live upon mice, lizards, or fuch like food, is not very perfect ; 
for though they fwallow them whole, yet they are always feen 
fome time after to difgorge the (kin and bones, rolled up in a 
pellet, as being indigelHble. 

In proportion as each of thefe animals bears the day-light bell, 
he fets forward earlier in the evening in purfuitof his prey. The 
great horned owl is the foremoft in leaving his retreat ; and ven- 
tures into the woods and thickets very foon in the evening. The 
horned and brown owl are later in their excurfions : but the barn 
owl feems to fee beft in profound darknefs ; and feldom leaves his 
hiding place till midnight. 

As they are incapable of fupporting the light of the day, or at 
leaft of then feeing and readily avoiding their danger, they keep 
all this time concealed in fome obfcure retreat, fuited to their 
gloomy appetites, and there continue in folitude and filence. The 
cavern of a rock, the darkeft part of an hollow tree, the battle- 
ments of a ruined and unfrequented caftle, fome obfcure hole in 
a farmer's out houfe, are the places where they are ufually found : 
if they be feen out of thefe retreats in the day time, they may be 
confidered as having loft their way ; as having by fome accident 
been thrown into the midft of their enemies, and furrounded with 

Having fpent the day in their retreat, at the approach of even- 
ing they fally forth, and fkim rapidly up and down along the 
hedges. The barn-owl indeed, which lives chiefly upon mice, is 
contented to be more ftationary : he takes his refidence upon 
fome mock of corn, or the point of fome old houfe ; and there 
watches in the dark, with the utmoft perfpicacity and perfeve- 

Nor are thefe birds by any means filent ; they all have an he- 
dious note; which, while purfuing their prey, is feldom heard; 
but may be confidered rather as a call to courtmip. There is 
fomething always terrifying in this call, which is often heard in 
the filence of mid night, and breaks the general paufe with an 
horrid variation. It is different in all ; but in each it is alarm- 
ing and difagreeable. Father Kircher, who has fet the voices of 


birds to mufick, has given all the tones of the owl note, which 
makes a moil horrid difcord. Indeed, the prejudices of mankind 
are united with their fenfations to make the cry of the owl difa- 
greeable. The fcreech owl's voice was always conlidered as a 
prefage of fome fad calamity that was foon to enfue. 

1 hey feldom, however, are heard while they are preying ; that 
important purfuit is always attended with filence, as it is by no 
means their intention to difturb or forewarn thofe little animals 
they wifli to furprife. When their purfuit has been fuccefsful, 
they foon return to their folitude, or to their young, if that be the 
feafon. If, however, they find but little game, they continue 
their qucft ftill longer; and it fomeiimes happens, that, obeying 
the dictates of appetite rather than of prudence, they purfue fo 
long that broad day breaks in upon them, and leaves them, daz- 
zled, bev/ildcred, and at a ciftance from home. 

In this diilrcfs they are obliged to take flieltcr in the firir, tree 
or hedge that offers, there to continue concealed all day, till the 
returning darknefs once more fupplies them with a better plan of 
the country. But it too often happens that, with all their pre- 
cautions to conceal themfelves, they are fpied out by the other 
birds of t^e place, and are fure to receive no mercy. The black- 
bird, the thrum, the jay, the banting, and the red-brealr, all 
come in file, and employ their little arts of infult and abufe. The 
fmalleft, the feebleft, and the moil contemptible of this unfortu- 
nate bird's enemies, are then the foremoft to injure and torment 
him. They increafe their cries and turbulence round him, flap 
him with their wings, and are ready to mew their courao-e to be 
great, as they are ienfible that their danger is but fmall. The 
unfortunate owl, not knowing where to attack or where to fly, 
patiently fits and fuffers ail their infults. Afbnifhed and dizzy, 
he only replies to their mockeries by aukward and ridiculous 
geftures, by turning his head, and rolling his eyes with an air of 
ftupidity. It is enough that an owl appears by day to fet the 
whole grove into a kind of uproar. Either the averfion all the 
fmall birds have to this animal, or the confcioufnefs of their own 
fecurity, makes them purfue him without ceafing, while they 
encourage each other by their mutual cries to lend affiftance in 
this laudable undertaking. 


It fometimes happens, however, that the little birds purfue 
their infults with the fame imprudent zeal with which the owl 
himfelf had purfued his depredations. They hunt him the whole 
day until evening returns ; which reftoring him his faculties of 
fight once more, he makes the foremofr. of his purfuers pay dear 
for their former fport : nor is man always an unconcerned fpe&a- 
tor here. The bird-catchers have got an art of counterfeiting 
the cry of an owl exactly ; and, having before limed the branches 
of an hedge, they fit unfeen and give the call. At this, all the 
little birds flock to the place where they expect to find their well- 
known enemy; but inftead of finding their ftupid antagonift, 
they are ftuck faft to the hedge themfelves. This fport muft 
be put in pra&ice an hour before night-fall in order to be fuccefs- 
ful ; for if it is put off till later, thofe birds which but a few mi- 
nutes fooner came to provoke their enemy, will then fly from 
him with as much terror as they juft before (hewed infblence. 

It is not unpleafant to fee one ftupid bird made infome fort a 
decoy to deceive another. The great horned owl is fometimes 
made ufe of for this purpofe, to lure the kite when falconers de- 
fire to catch him for the purpofe of training the falcon. Upon 
this occafion they clap the tail of a fox to the great owl, to ren- 
der his figure extraordinary; in which trim he fails flowly 
along, flying low, which is his ufual manner. The kite, either 
curious to obferve this odd kind of animal, or perhaps inquifitive 
to fee whether it may not be proper for food, flies after, and comes 
nearer and nearer. In this manner he continues to hover, and 
fometimes to defcend, till the falconer fetting a ftrong-winged 
hawk againfthim, feizes him for the purpofe of training his young, 
at home. 

The ufual place where the great horned owl breeds, is in the 
cavern of a rock, the hollow of a tree, or the turret of fome ru- 
ined caftle. Its neft is near three feet in diameter, andcompofed 
of flicks, bound together by the fibrous roots of trees, and lined 
with leaves on the infidei It lays about three eggs, which are 
larger than thofe. of a hen, and of a colour fomewhat refembling 
the bird itfelf. The young ones are very voracious, and the pa- 
rents not lefs expert at fatisfying the call of hunger. Tks leffer 



owl of this kind never makes a neft for itfelf, but always take* 
up with the old neft of feme other bird, which it has often been 
forced to abandon. It lays four or five eggs ; and the young 
are all white at firft, but change colour in about a fortnight. 
The other owls in general build near the place where they chiefly 
prey ; that which feeds upon birds in fome neighbouring grove, 
that which preys chiefly upon mice, near fome farmer's yard, 
where the proprietor of the place takes care to give it perfect fe- 
curity. In fat, whatever mifchief one fpecies of owl may do 
in the woods, the barn-owl makes a fufficient recompence for y 
by being equally active in deftroying mice nearer home ; fo that 
a linglc owl is faid to be more ferviceable than half a dozen cats, 
in ridding the barn of its domeftic vermin. " In the year 1580," 
fays an old writer, i<: at Hallontide, an army of mice fo over-ran 
" the marflies near Southminfter, that they eat up the grafs to the 
" very roots. But at length a great number of ftrange painted 
" owls came and devoured all the mice. The like happened 
" again in EiTex about fixty years after." 

To conclude our account of thefe birds, they are all very fhy 
of man, and extremely indocile and difficult to be tamed. The 
white owl in particular, as mr. BufTbn aflerts, cannot be made 
to live in captivity; I fuppofe he means, if it be taken when old. 
" They live," fays he, " ten or twelve days in the aviary where 
" they are ihut up ; but they refufe all kind of nourifhment, and 
* c at laft die of hunger. By day they remain without moving 
<c upon the floor of the aviary; in the evening, they mount on 
" the higheft perch, where they continue to make a noife like a 
" man fnoring with his mouth open. This feems defigned as a 
<c call for their old companions without ; and in fa&,. I have feen 
" feveral others come to the call, and perch upon the roof of the 
" aviary, where they made the fame kind of hiffing, and foon after 
" permitted thcmfelves to be taken in a net.'' 



Of Birds ef the Poultry Kind. 

FROM the moft rapacious and noxious tribe of birds, we 
make a tranfition to thofe which of all others are the moft 
harmlefs and the moft ferviceable to man. He may force the ra- 
pacious tribes to affift his pleafures in the field, or induce the 
fmaller warblers to delight him with their flnging ; but it is 
from the poultry kind that he derives the moftfolid advantages, 
as they not only make a confiderable addition to the necelTaries 
of life, but furnifli out the greateft delicacies to every entertain- 

Alrnoft if not all the domeftic birds of the poultry kind that 
we maintain in our yards, are of foreign extra&ion; but there are 
others to be ranked in this clafs that are as yet in a irate of na- 
ture; and perhaps only wait till they become Efficiently fcarce 
to be taken under the care of man to multiply their propagation. 
It will appear remarkable enough, if we confider how much the 
tame poultry which we have imported from diftant climates has 
increafed, arid how much thofe wild birds of the poultry kind 
that have never yet been taken into keeping have been dimini/hed 
and deirroyed. They are all thinned ; and many of the fpecies, 
especially in the more cultivated and populous parts of the kino-- 
dom, are utterly unfeen. 

Under birds of the poultry kind I rank all thofc that have 
white flefh, and, comparatively to their head and limbs, have 
bulky bodies. They are furnifhcd with fhort ftrong bills for 


picking up grain, which is their chief and often their only fufte-r 
nance. Their wings are fhort and concave ; for which reafon 
they are not able to fly far. They lay a great many eggs ; and, 
as they lead their young abroad the very day they are hatched, in 
queft of food, which they are fhewn by the mother, and which 
they pick up for themfelves, they generally make their nefts on 
the ground. The toes of all thefe are united by a membrane as 
far as the firft articulation, and then are divided as in thofe of the 
former clafs. 

Under this clafs we may therefore rank the common cock, the 
peacock, the turkey, the pintada, or Guinea hen, the pheafant, 
the buftard, the groufe, the partridge, and the quail. Thefe all 
bear a ftrong fimilitude to each other, being equally granivorous, 
flefhy, and delicate to the palate, Thefe are among birds, what 
beafts of pafture are among quadrupeds, peaceable tenants of the 
field, and fhunning the thicker parts of the foreft, that abounds 
with numerous animals who carry qn unceafmg hoflilities againft 

As nature has formed the rapacious clafs for war, fo flie feems 
equally to have fitted thefe for peace, reft, and fociety. Their 
wings are but fliort, fo that they are ill formed for wandering 
from one region to another ; their bills are alfo fhort, and inca- 
pable of annoying their oppofers ; their legs are ftrong indeed ; 
but their toes are made for fcratching -up their food, and not 
for holclhg or tearing it. Thefe are fufficient indications of 
their harmiefs nature; while their bodies, which are fat and 
flefhy, render them unwieldly travellers, and incapable of ftray- 
ijig far from each other. 

Accordingly we find them chiefly in fociety; they live toge- 
ther i arid though they may have their difputes, like all other 
animals, upon fome occafions ; yet, when kept in the fame dif- 
tricT:, or fed in the fame yard, they learn the arts of fubordi nation ; 
and, in proportion as each knows his ftrength, he feldom tries 
a fecond time a combat where he has once been worfted. 

In this manner, all of this kind feem to lead an indolent vo- 
luptuous life ; as they are furnifhed internally with a ftrong fto* 
mach, commonly called a gizzard, fo their voracioufnefs fcarce 


knows any bounds. If kept in clofe captivity, and feparated 
from all their former companions, they ftill have the pleafure of 
eating left ; and they foon grow fat and unwieldy in their prifon, 
To fay this more fimply, many of the wilder fpecies of birds, 
when cooped or caged, pine away, grow gloomy, and fome re- 
fufe all fuftenance whatever ; none, except thofe of the poultry 
kind, grow fat, who feem to lofe all remembrance of their for- 
mer liberty, fatisfied with indolence and plenty. 

The poultry kind may be confidered as fenfual epicures, 
folely governed by their appetites. The indulgence of thefe 
feems to influence their other habits, and deflroys among them 
that connubial fidelity for which moft other kinds are remark- 
able. The eagle and the falcon, how fierce foever to other ani- 
mals, are yet gentle and true to each other ; their connexions, 
when once formed, continue till death ; and the male and female 
in every exigence and every duty lend faithful afTiftance to each 
other. They aflift each other in the production of their young, 
in providing for them when produced j and even then, though 
they drive them forth to fight their own battles, yet the old ones 
ftill retain their former affection for each other, and feldom part 
far afunder. 

But it is very different with this luxurious clafs I am now 
defcribing. Their courtfhip is but fhort, and their congrefs for- 
tuitous. The male takes no heed of his offspring ; and fatisfied 
with the pleafure of getting, leaves to the female all the care of 
providing for pofterity. Wild and irregular in his appetites, he 
ranges from one to another; and claims every female which he 
is ftrong enough to keep from his fellows. Though timorous 
when oppofed to birds of prey, yet he is incredibly bold among 
thofe of his own kind ; and but to fee a male of his own fpecies is 
fufficient to produce a combat. As his defires extend to all, 
every creature becomes his enemy that pretends to be his rival. 

The female, equally without fidelity or attachment, yields to 
the mod powerful. She ftands by, a quiet meretricious fpec- 
tator of their fury, ready to reward the conqueror with every 
compliance. She takes upon herfelf all the labour of hatchincr 
:ind bringing up her young, and choqfes a place for hutching as 


remote as poffible from the cock. Indeed, fhe gives herfelf very 
little trouble in making a neft, as her young onss are to forfake 
"it the inflant they part from the fhell. 

She is equally unaiTifled in providing for her young, which are 
not fed with meat put into their mouths, as in other clafles of the 
feathered kind, but peck their food, and, forfaking their nefts, run 
here and there, following the parent wherever it is to be found. 
She leads them forward where they arc likely to have the great- 
eft quantity of grain, and takes care to fhew, by pecking, the 
fort proper for them to feck -for. Though at other times vora- 
cious, flie is then abftemious to an extreme degree ; and, intent 
only on providing for and (hewing her young clutch their food, 
fhe fcarce takes any nourifhment herfelf. Her parental pride 
feems to overpower every other appetite ; but that decreafes in 
proportion as her young ones are more able to provide for them- 
felves, and then all her voracious habits return. 

Among the other habits peculiar to this clafs of birds is that 
of dufting themfelves. They lay flat in fome dufty place, and 
with their wings and feet raife and fcatter the duft over their 
whole body. What may be their reafon for thus doing it is not 
eafy to explain. Perhaps the heat of their bodies is fuch, that 
they require this powder to be interpofed betwesn their feathers, to 
keep them from lying too clofe together, and thus increafmg 
that heat witfi which they are incommoded. 


Of the Cock. 

AL L birds taken under the protection of man lofe a part of 
their natural figure, and are altered not only in their 
habits but their very form. Climate, food, and captivity are 
three very powerful agents in producing thefe alterations j and 
thofe birds that have longed felt their influence under human di- 


region, are the mcft likely to have the greateft variety in their 
figures, their plurva^, and their difpofitions. 


Of all other birds, the cock feems to be the oldeft companion of 
mankind, to have been firft reclaimed from the foreft, and taken to 
fupply the accidental failure of the luxuries or neceflaries of life. As 
he is thus longeft under the care of man, fo of all others perhaps 
he exhibits the greateft number of varieties, there being fcarce 
two birds of this fpecies that exactly refemble each other in plu- 
mage and form. The tail, which makes fuch a beautiful figure 
in the generality of thefe birds, is yet found entirely wanting in 
others 3 and not only the tail but the rump alfb. The toes > 
which are ufually four in all animals of the poultry kind, yet in 
a fpecies of the cock are found to amount to five. The feathers^, 
which lie fo fleek and in fuch beautiful order on moil of thofe we 
are acquainted with, are in a peculiar breed all inverted, and 
ftand ftaring the wrong way. Nay, there is a fpecies that comes 
from Japan, which inftead of feathers feems to be covered over 
with hair. Thefe and many other varieties are to be found in 
this animal, which feem to be the mark this early prifoner 
bears of his long captivity. 

It is not well afcertained when the cock was firft made do- 
meftic in Europe ; but it is generally agreed that we firft had 
him in our weftern world from the kingdom of Perfia. Arifto- 
phanes calls the cock the Perfian bird, and tells us he enjoyed 
that kino-dom before fome of its earlieft monarchs. This animal 


was in fact known fo early in the moft favage parts of Europe, 
that we are told the cock was one of the forbidden foods among 
the ancient Britons. Indeed, the domeftic fowl feems to have 
banimed the wild one. Perfia itfelf, that firft introduced it to 
our acquaintance, feems no longer to know it in its natural form;, 
and if we did not find it wild in fome of the woods of India, as 
well as thofe of the iflands in the Indian Ocean, we might begin 
to doubt, as we do with regard to the flieep, in what form it firft 
exifted in a ftate of nature. 

But thofe doubts no longer exift : the cock is found in the 
illands of Tinian, in many others of the Indian Ocean, and in 
the woods on the coafts of Malabar in his ancient ftate of 
independence. In his wild condition, his plumage is black 
and yellow, and his comb and wattles yellow and purple. 
There is another peculiarity alfo in thole of the ladian 


woods; their bones, which, when boiled, with us are white, a3 
every body knows, in thofe are as black as ebony. Whether 
this tincture proceeds from their food, as the bones are tinctured 
red by feeding upon madder, I leave to the difcufiion of others : 
fatisfied with the facl:, let us decline fpeculation. 

In their firft propagation in Europe, there were diftinclions 
then that now fubfift no longer. The ancients efteemed thofe 
fowls whofe plumage was reddifh, as invaluable; but as for the 
white it was confidered as utterly unfit for domeftic purpofes. 
Thefe they regarded as fubjecl: to become a prey to rapacious 
birds ; and Ariftotle thinks them lefs fruitful than the former. 
Indeed, his divifion of thofe birds feems taken from their culinary 
ufcs ; the one fort he calls generous and noble, being remarkable 
for fecundity; the other fort, ignoble and ufelefs, from their 
fterility. Thefe diflin&ions differ widely from our modern 
notions of generofity in this animal ; that which we call the 
game-cock being by no means fo fruitful as the ungenerous 
dunghill-cock, which we treat with contempt. The Athenians 
had their cock-matches as well as we; but it is probable they 
did riot enter into our refinement of choofing out the molt barren 
of the fpecies for the purpofe of combat. 

However this be, no animal in the world has greater courage 
than the cock when oppofed to one of his own fpecies ; and in 
every part of the world where refinement and polimed manners 
have not entirely taken place, cock-fighting is a principal diver- 
fion. In China, India, the Philippine Iflands, and all over the 
eaft, cock-fighting is the fport and amufement even of kings and 
princes. With us it is declining every day ; and it is to be hop- 
ed it will in time become only the paftime of the loweft vulgar. 
It is the opinion of many that we have a bolder and more valiant 
breed than is to be found elfewhere ; and fome, indeed, have en- 
tered into a furious difcufiion upon the catife of fo flattering a 
fmgularity. But the truth is, they have cocks in China, as 
bold, if not bolder, than ours ; and, what would ftill be confidered 
as valuable among cockers here, they have more ftrength with 
lefs weight. Indeed, I have often wondered why men who lay 
two or three hundred pounds upon the prowefs of a (ingle cock, 


faavc not taken every method to improve the breed. Nothing, it 
is probable, could do this more effectually than by crofiing the 
Jfrairi) as it is called, by a foreign mixture ; and whether having 
recourfe even to the wild cock in the forefts of India would not 
be ufeful, I leave to their confideration. However, it is a mean 
and ungenerous arnufement, nor would I wi(li much to promote 
it. The truth is, I could give fuch inftru&ions with regard to 
cock-fighting, and could fo arm one of thefe animals againft the 
other, that it would-be alrnoft impoflible for the adverfary's cock 
to furvive the firft or fecond blow ; but, as Boerhaave has faid 
upon a former occafion, when he was treating upon poifon?, <c to 
teach the arts of cruelty is equivalent to committing them." 

This extraordinary courage in the cock is thought to proceed 
from his being the rnoft falacioiis of all other birds whatsoever. 
A fingle cock (unices. for ten or a dozen hens ; and it is faid of 
him that he is the only animal whofe fpirits are not abated by in- 
dulgence. But then he foon grows old ; the radical moifture is 
exhaufted ; and in three or four years, he becomes utterly unfit 
for the purpofes of impregnation. " Hens alfo," to ufe the words 
of Willotighby, u as they for the greateft part of the year daily 
'" lay eggs, cannot fuffice for fo many births, but for the moft 
" part after three years become effete and barren : for when they 
" have exhaufted all thejr feed-eggs, of which they had but a 
* certain quantity from the beginning, they muft neceflarily 
M ceafe to lay, there being no new ones generated within." 

The hen feldom clutches a brood of chickens above once a fea- 
fon, though inftances have been known- in which they produced 
two. The number of eggs a domeftic hen will lay in the year 
are above two hundred, provided (he be well fed and fupplied with 
water and liberty. It matters not much whether fhe^be trodden 
by the cock or no ; file will continue to lay, although all the eggs 
of this kind can never, by hatching, bebrought to produce a living 
animal. Her neft is made without any care, if left to herfelfj a 
hole fcratched into the ground, among a few bufhes, is the only 
preparation (he makes for this feafon of patient expectation. Na- 
ture, almoft exhaufted by its own fecundity, feems to inform her 
of the proper time for hatching, which file herfclf teftifies by a 
VOL! III. - M 


clucking note, and by difcontinuing to lay. The good houfewivfc, 
who often s;et more by their hens "laying than by their chickens, 
often artificially protract this clucking feafon, and fometimes en- 
tirely remove it. As foon as their hen begins to cluck, they {lint 
her in her provifions ; and, if that fails, they plunge her into cold 
water; this, for the time, erFe&uaily puts back her hatching; 
but then it often kills the poor bird, who takes cold and dies un- 
der the operation. 

If left entirely to herfelf, the hen would feldom lay above twen- 
ty eggs in the fame neft, without attempting to hatch them : 
but in proportion as fhe lays, her eggs are removed : and fhe 
continues to lay, vainly hoping to increafe the number. In the 
wild ft ate, the hen feldom lays above fifteen eggs : but then her 
jjrovifion is more difficultly obtained, and fhe is perhaps fenfible 
pf the difficulty of maintaining too numerous a family. 

When the hen begins to fit, nothing can exceed her perfeve- 
rance and patience; fhe continues for fome days immoveable; 
and when forced away by the importunities of hunger, fhe quick- 
ly returns. Sometimes alfo her eggs become too hot for her to 
bear, efpecially if fhe be furnifhed with too warm a neft with- 
in doors, for then fhe is obliged to leave them to cool a little: 
thus the warmth of the r.eft only retards incubation, and often 
puts the brood a day or two back in the ill ell. While the hen 
fits, file carefully turns her eggs, and even removes them to dif- 
ferent fituations ; till at length, in about three weeks, the young 
brood begin to give figns of a defire to burft their confinement. 
When by the repeated efforts of their bill, v/hich ferves like a pio- 
neer on this occafion, they have broke themfdves a pafTage 
through the (hell, the hen ftill continues to fit till all are exclud- 
ed. The flrongeft and beil chickens generally are the firO: can- 
didates for liberty ; the weakerr. come behind, and fome even die 
in the fhell. When all are produced, fhe then leads them forth 
to provide for themfelves. Her affection and her pride feem then 
to alter her very nature, and correct her imperfections. No lon- 
ger veracious or cowardly, fhe abftains from all food that her 
young can fwallow, and flies boldly at every creature that fhe 
thinks is likely to do tfeem mifchief. Whatever the invading 
animal be, fhe boldly attacks him the horfe, the hog, or the maf- 


{iff. When marching at the head of her little troop, (lie a&s the 
commander, and has a variety of notes to call her numerous train 
to their food, or to warn them of approaching danger. Upon one 
of thefe occafions, I have feen the whole brood run for fecurity in- 
to the thickefl part of an hedge, while the hen herfelf ventured 
boldly forth, and faced a fox that came for plunder. With a 
good maftifF, however, we foon fent the invader back to his re- 
treat ; but not before he had wounded the hen in feveral places. 
Ten or twelve chickens are the greateft number that a good 
hen can rear and clutch at a time ; but as this bears no pro- 
portion to the number of her eggs, fchemes have been imagined 
to clutch all the eggs of an hen, and thus turn her produce to the 
greateft advantage. By thefe contrivances it has been obtained 
that a hen that ordinarily produces but twelve chickens in the 
year, is found to produce as many chickens as eggs, and confe- 
quently often above two hundred. The contrivance I mean is 
the artificial method of hatching chickens in {roves, as is praclifed 
at Grand Cairo, or in a chymical elabotary properly graduated^ 
as has been effected by mr. Reaumer. At Grand Cairo, they 
thus produce fix or feven thoufand chickens at a time ; where, 
as they are* brought forth in their mild fpring, which is warmer 
than our fummer, the young ones thrive without clutching. But 
it is other wife in our cold and unequal climate ; the little animal 
may, without much difficulty^ be hatched from the fhell ; but 
they almoft all perifh when excluded; To remedy this, Reau- 
mer has made ufe of a woollen hen, as he calls it ; which was no- 
thing more than putting the young ones in a warm bafket, and 
clapping over them a thick woollen canopy. I fhould think a 
much better fubftitute might be found; and this from among the 
fpecics themfelves* Capons may very cafily be taught to clutch 
a frem brood of chickens throughout the year ; fo that when one 
little colony is thus reared, another may be brought to fucceed it; 
It is very common to fee capons thus employed ; and the manner 
of teaching them is this ; firfl the capon is made very tame, fo as 
to feed from one's hand ; then, about evening, they pluck the 
feathers off his breaft, and rub the bare fkin with nettles ; they 
then put the chickens to him, which prefently run under his bread 
and belly, and probably rubbing his bare fkin gently with their 


heads, allay the fringing pain which the nettles had juft producecL 
This is repeated for two or three nights, till the animal takes an 
affection to the chickens that have thus given him relief, and con- 
tinues to give them the protection they feek for : perhaps alib the 
querulous voice of the chickens may be pleafant to him in mifery, 
and invite him to fuccour the diftreiTed. He from that time brings 
up a brood of chickens like a hen, clutching them, feeding them., 
clucking and performing all the functions of the tendered parent.. 
A capon once accuflomed to this fervice, will not give over ; but 
when one brood is grown up, he may have another nearly hatched 
put under him, which he will treat with the fame teiidernefs he 
did the former. 

The cock, from his falacioufnefs, is allowed to be a fhort lived' 
animal, but how long thefe birds live, if left to themfelves, is not 
yet well afcertained by any hiftorian. As they are kept only for 
profit* and in a few years become unfit for generation, there are 
few, that) from mere motives of curiofity, will make the tedious 
experiment of maintaining a proper number till they die. Aldro- 
vandus hints their age to be ten years ; and it is probable that 
this may be its extent. They are fubject to fome diforders, which 
it is not our bufmefs to defcribe ; and as for poifons, befides mix 
vomica, which is fatal to moft animals except man, they are in- 
jured, as Linnaeus afTerts, by elder-berries ; of which they are not 
a little fond. 


Of the Peacock. 

TH E peacock, by the common people of Italy, is faid to have 
the plumage of an angel, the voice of a devil, and the guts 
of a thief. In fact, each of thefe qualities mark pretty well the 
nature of this extraordinary bird. When it appears with its tail 
expanded, there is none of the feathered creation can vie with it 
for beauty ; yet the horrid fcream of its voice ferves to abate the 
pleafure ws find from viewing it j and (till more, its infatiablc 


gluttony and fpirit of depredation make it one of the moft noxious 
domeftics that man has taken under his protection. 

Our firft peacocks were brought from the Eaft Indies ; and 
we are aflured, that they are ftill found in vaft flocks, in a wild 
ftate, in the iflands of Java and Ceylon. So beautiful a bird, and 
one efteemed fuch a delicacy at the tables of the luxurious, could 
not be permitted to continue long at liberty in its diftant retreats. 
So early as the days of Solomon, we find in his navies, among 
the articles imported from the Eaft, apes and peacocks. JEiia.ii 
relates,-that they were brought into Greece from fome barbarous 
country, and Were held in fuch high efteem among them, that a 
male and female were valued at above thirty pounds of our money. 
We are told alfo, that when Alexander was in India, he found 
them flying wild, in vaft numbers, on the banks of the river Hya- 
rotis, and was fo ftruck with their beauty, that he laid a fevere fine 
and punifliment on all who fliould kill or difturb them. Nor are 
we to be furprifed at this, as the Greeks were (b much {truck 
with the beauty of this bird, when firft brought among them, that 
every perfon paid a fixed price for feeing it ; and feveral people 
came to Athens, from Lacedemon and TheiTaly, purely to fatisfy 
their curiofity. 

It was probably firft introduced into the Weft, merely on ac- 
count of its beauty; but mankind, from contemplating its figure, 
foon came to think of ferving it up for a different entertainment. 
Aufidius Hirco ftands charged by Pliny with being the firft who 
fatted up the peacock for the feafts of the luxurious. Whatever 
there may be of delicacy in the flefh of a young peacock, it is 
certain an old one is very indifferent eating ; neverthelefs, there 
is no mention made of chufing the youngeft: it is probable they 
v/ere killed indifcriminately, the beauty of the feathers in fome 
meafure Simulating the appetite. Hortenfius the orator was 
the firft who ferved them up at an entertainment at Rome ; and 
from that time they were confidered as one of the greateft orna- 
ments of every ft aft. Whether the Roman method of cookery, 
which was much higher than ours, might not have rendered them 
more palatable than we find them at prcfent, I cannot tell ; but 
certain it is, they talk of the peacock as being the firft of viands. 



Its fame for delicacy, however, did not continue very long y 
for we find, in the times of Francis the Firft, that it was a cuf- 
tom to ferve up peacocks at the tables of the great, with an 
intention not to be eaten, but only to be feen. Their manner 
was to ftrip off the fkin ; and then preparing the body with the; 
warmed fpices, they covered it up again in its former fkin, with 
all its plumage in full difplay, and no way injured by the pre- 
paration. The bird thus prepared, was often preferred for many 
years without corrupting ; and it is afierted of the peacock's 
flefh, that it keeps longer unputrefied than that of any other ani- 
mal. To give a higher zeft to thefe entertainments, on wed- 
dings particularly, they filled the bird's beak and throat with 
cotton and camphire, which they fet on fire, to amufe and de- 
light the company. I do not know that the peacock is much 
ufed at c\<r entertainments atprefent, except now and then at ari 
alderman's dinner or a common-council feaft, when our citizens 
refolve to be fplendid; and even then it is never ferved with its 
co i ton and cainphirc. 

Like other birds of the poultry kind, the peacock feeds upon 
corn; but its chief predilection is for barley. But as it is a very 
proud and fickle bird, there is fcarce any food that it will not at 
tinies covet arid purfue. Infects and tender plants are often 
eagerly fought at a time that it has a fufficiency of its natural 
food provided more nearly. In the indulgence of thefe capricious 
purfuits, walls cannot eafily confine it; it ftrips the tops of 
houfes of their tiles or thatch, it lays wafte the labours of the 
gardener, roots up his choiceft feeds, and nips his favourite flow- 
ers in the bud. Thus its beauty but ill recompenfes for the mif-^ 
chief it occafioris; and many of the more homely looking fowls 
are very defervedly preferred before it. 

Nor is the peacock lefs a debauchee in his affections, than a 
glutton in his appetites. He is ftill more falacious than even the 
cock : and though not pofleffed of the fame vigour, yet burns 
with more immoderate defire. He requires five females at leafl 
to attend him : and if there be not a fufficient number, he will 
even run upon and tread the fitting hen. For this reafon, the 
pea-hen endeavours, as much as file can, to hide her neft from 


the male, as he would otherwife difturb her fitting and break 
her eggs. 

The-pea hen feldom lays above five or fix eggs in this cli- 
mate before fhe fits. Ariftotlc defcribes her as laying twelve ; 
and it is probable, in her native climate, flie mny be thus pro- 
lific; for it is certain, that in the forefls where they breed na- 
turally, they are numerous beyond expreffion. This bird lives 
about twenty years, and not till its third year has it that beauti- 
ful variegated plumage that adorns its tail. 

" In the kingdom of Cambaya," fays Taverner, " near the 
" city of Baroach, whole flocks of them are fcen in the fields. 
" They are very ihy, however, and it is impoiTible to come near 
cc them. They run off fwifter than the partridge; and hide 
" themfelves in thickets, where it is impoffible to find them. 
" They perch, by night, upon trees ; and the fov/ler often ap- 
" proaches them at that feafon with a kind of banner, on which 
" a peacock is painted to the life, on either fide. A lighted 
"torch is fixed on the top of his decoy; and the peacock, 
" when difturbed, flies to what it takes for another, and is 
." thus caught in a noofe prepared for that purpofe." 

There are varieties of this bird, fome of which are white, 
.others crefted : that which is called the peacock of Thibet, is the 
moft beautiful of the feathered creation., containing in its plu- 
mage all the moft vivid colours, red, blue, yellow, and green, 
difpofed in an almoft artificial order, as if merely to pleafe the 
eye of the beholder. 


The Turkey. 

Til E natal place of the cock and the peacock is pretty well 
afcertained ; but there are Wronger doubts concerning the 
turkey; fome contending that it has been brought into Europe 
from the Eaft Indies many centuries ago; while others aflert, 


that it is wholly unknown in that part of the world, that it is a 
native of the New Continent, and that it was not brought into 
Europe till the difcovery of that part of the world. 

Thofe who contend for the latter opinion, very truly obferve, 
that among all the descriptions we have of eaftern birds, that of 
the turkey is not be found, while, on the contrary, it is very 
well known in the New Continent, where it runs wild about the 
woods. It is faid, by them, to have been firir. feen in France, 
in the reign of Francis the firft ; and in England, in that x>f 
Henry the eighth; which is about the time when Mexico was 
firft conquered by Spain, On the other hand, it is aiierted, that 
the turkey, fo far from being unknown in Europe before that 
time, was known even to the antients ; and that ./Elian has gi- 
ven a pretty juft defcription of it. They allege, that its very 
name implies its having been brought from fome part of the eaft ; 
and that it is found) among other dainties ferved up at the tables 
of the great, before that time among ourfelves. But what they 
pretend to be the ftrongcft proof is, that though the wild turkey 
be fo very common in America, yet the natives cannot contrive 
.to tame it; and though hatched in the ordinary manner, nothing 
can render it domeflic. In this diverfity of opinions, perhaps it 
is beft to fufpend affent, till more lights are thrown on the fub- 
jcct; however, I am inclined to concur with the former opinion. 

With us, when young, it is one of the tendered of all birds ; 
yet, in its wild ftate, it is found in great plenty in the forefls of 
Canada, that are covered with fnow above three parts of the 
year. In their natural woods, they are found much larger than 
n their ftate of domeftic captivity. They are much more 
Beautiful alfo, their feathers being of a dark grey, bordered at 
the edges with a bright gold colour. Thefe the favages of the 
country weave into cloaks to adorn their perfons, and fafhion 
into fans and umbrellas, but never once think of taking into 
keeping animals that the woods furni/h them with in fufficient 
abundance. Savage man feems to find a delight in precarious 
pofiefiion. A great part of the pieafure of the chace lies in the 
uncertainty of the purfuit, and he is unwilling to abridge him- 
fclf in any accidental fuccefs that may attend his fatigues. The 

J J O 

hunting the turkey, therefore, makes one of his principal diver- 


fions ; as its flefh contributes chiefly to the fupport of his family. 
When he has difcovered the place of their retreat, which, in ge- 
neral, is near fields of nettles, or where there is plenty of any kind 
of grain, he takes his dog with him, which is trained to the fport, 
(a faithful rough creature, fuppofed to be originally reclaimed 
from the wolf ) and he fends him into the midft of the flock* 
The turkies no fooncr perceive their enemy, than they fet off 
running at full fpeed, and with fuch fwiftnefs that they leave the 
dog far behind them : he follows, neverthelefs, and fenfible they 
rnuft foon be tired, as they cannot go full fpeed for any length 
of time, he, at laft, forces them to take fhelter in a tree, where 
they fit quite fpent and fatigued, till the hunter comes up, and 
with a long pole, knocks them down one after the other. 

This manner of fufFering themfelves to be deftroyed, argues 
no great inftincl: in the animal; and indeed in their captive ftate, 
they do not appear to be pofleffed of much. They feem a ftupid, 
Vain, querulous tribe, apt enough to quarrel among themfelves, 
yet without any weapons to do each other an injury. Every 
body knows the ftrange antipathy the turkey-cock has to a red co- 
lour ; how he briftles, and, with his peculiar gobbling found, flies 
to attack it. But there is another method of increafmg the ani- 
mofity of thefe birds againft each other, which is often praclifed 
by boys when they have a mind for a battle. This is no- more 
than to fmear over the head of one of the turkies with dirt, and the 
reft run to attack it with all the fpeed of impotent animonty: 
nay, two of them thus difguifed, will fight each other till they 
are almoft fufFocated with fatigue and anger. 

But though fo furious among themfelves, they are weak and 
cowardly againft other animals, though far lefs powerful than 
they. The cock often makes the turkey keep at a diftance ; and 
they feldom venture to attack him but with united force, when 
they rather opprefs him by their weight, than annoy him by their 
arms. There is no animal, how contemptible foever, that v/ill 
venture boldly to face the turkey-cock, that he will not fly from. 
On the contrary, with the infolence of a bully, he purfues any 
thing that feems to fear him, particularly lap-dogs and children, 
againft both of which he feems to have a peculiar averfioxi. On 



fuch occafions, after he has made them fcamper, he returns to his 
female train, difplays his plumage around, ftruts about the 
yard, and gobbles out a note of felf-approbation. 

The female feems of a milder, gentler difpofition. Rather 
querulous than bold, fhe hunts about in queft of grain and in 
purfuit of infers, being particularly delighted with the eggs of 
ants and caterpillars. She lays eighteen or twenty eggs, larger 
than thofe of a hen, whitiih, but marked with fpots refembling 
the freckles of the face. Her young are extremely tender at firft, 
and muft be carefully fed with curd chopped with dock leaves; 
but as they grow older, they become more hardy, and follow 
the mother to confiderable diftances, in purfuit of infecl: food, 
which they prefer to any other. On thefe occafions, however, 
the female, though fo large and, as it would feem, fo powerful 
a bird, gives them but very little protection againft the attacks 
of any rapacious animal that comes in her way. She rather warns 
her young to fhift for themfelves, than prepares to defend them. 
" I have heard," fays the Abbe la Pluche, " a turkey-hen, when 
t: at the head of her brood, fend forth the moft hideous fcream, 
<c without knowing as yet the caufe : however, her young, im- 
* c mediately when the warning was given, fkulked under the 
" buflies, the grafs, or whatever el ft- offered for flicker or pro- 
" tecfdon. They even ft retched themfelves at their full length 
<c upon the ground, and continued lying as motionlefs as if they 
u were dead. In the mean time, the mother, with her eyes di- 
u recced upwards, continued her cries and {creaming as before. 
<c Upon looking up to where fhe feemed to gaze, I difcovered a 
<c black fpot juft under the clouds, but was unable at firft to de- 
u termine what it was ; however, it foon appeared to be a bird 
of prey, though at firft at too great a diftance to be diftin- 
guimed. I have feen one of thefe animals continue in this vi- 
c olent agitated ftate, and her whole brood pinned down as it 
" were to the ground,' for four hours together, whilft their for- 
" midable foe has taken his circuits, has mounted, and hovered 
directly over their heads : at laft, upon difappearing, the parent 
" began to change her note, and fend forth another cry, which in 
w an iriftant gave life to the whole trembling tribe, and they all 


" flocked round her with expreflions of pleafure, as if confcious 
" of their happy efcape from danger." 

When once grown up, turkies are very hardy birds, and feed 
themfclves at very little expence to the farmer. Thofe of 
Norfolk are faid to be the largeft, weighing from twenty to thirty 
pounds. There are places, however, in the Eaft Indies, where 
they are known only in their domeiltc ftate, in which they grow 
to the weight of fixty pounds. 


The Pheafant. 

IT would (urprize a fportfman to be told, that the pheafant 
which he finds wild in the woods, in the remoteft parts of 
the kingdom, and in forefts, which can fcarce be faid to have an 
owner, is a foreign bird, and was at firft artificially propagated 
amongft us. They were brought into Europe from the banks 
of the Phafis, a river of Colchis, in Afia Minor ', and from 
thence they ftill retain their name. 

Next to the peacock, they are the moil beautiful of birds, as 
well for the vivid colour of their plumes, as for their happy mix- 
tures and variety. It is far beyond the power of the pencil to- 
draw any thing fo glofly, fo bright, or points fo finely bknding 
into each other. We are told that when Crcefus, king of Ly- 
dia, was feated on his throne, adorned with royal magnificence, 
and all the barbarous pomp of eaftern fplendor, he afked Solon if 
he had ever beheld any thing fo fine ! The Greek philofopher, no 
way moved by the obje&s before him, or taking a pride in his na- 
tive fimplicity, replied, that after having feen the beautiful plu- 
mage of the pheafant, he could be aftonifhed at no other finery. 

In fa6t, nothing can fatisfy the eye with a greater variety and 
richnefs of ornament than this beautiful creature. The iris of 
the eye is yellow > and the eyes themfelves are furrounded with 


a fcarlet colour, fprinkled with final 1 fpecks of black. On tlis 
fore-part of the head there are blackifh feathers mixed with a 
fhining purple. The top of the head and the upper part of the 
neck are tinged with a darkifh green that fhines like filk. In 
fome, the top of the head is of a fhining blue, and the head 
itfslf, as well as the upper part of the neck, appears fometimes 
blue and fometimes green, as it is differently placed to the 
eye of the fpe&ator. The feathers of the brcaft, the fhoulders, 
the middle of the back, and the fides under the wings, have a 
blackifh ground, with edges- tinged of an exquifite colour, 
which appears fometimes black, and fometimes purple, accord- 
ing to the different lights it is placed in ; under the purple 
there is a tranfverfe ftreak of gold colour. The tail, from 
the middle feathers to the root, is about eighteen inches long ; 
the legs, the feet, and the toes, are of the colour of horn. There 
are black fpurs on the legs, fhorter than thofe of a cock ; there is 
a membrane that connects two of the toes together j and the male 
is much more beautiful than the female. 

This bird, though fo beautiful to the eye, is not lefs delicate 
when ferved up to the table. Its flefh is confidered as the greateft 
dainty ; and when the old phyficians fpoke of the wholefomenefs 
of any viands, they made their comparifon with the flefh of the 
pheafant. However, notwithftanding all thefe perfections to 
tempt the curiofity or the palate, the pheafant has multiplied in 
its wild flate; and, as ifdifdaining the protection of man, has left 
him, to take fhelter in the thickeft woods and the remoteft forefts. 
All others of the domeftic kind, the cock, the turkey, or the pin- 
tada, when once reclaimed, have ftill continued in their domeftic 
ftate, and perfeversd in the habits and appetites of willing flavery^ 
But the pheafant, though taken from its native warm retreats, 
where the woods fupply variety of food, and the warm fun fuits 
its tender conftitution, has^ ftill continued its attachment tojia- 
tive freedom ; and now wild among us, makes the moft envted 
ornament of our parks and forefts, where he feeds upon acorns 
and berries, and the fcanty produce of our chilling climate. 

This fpirit of independence feems to attend the pheafant even 
in captivity. In the woods, the hen-pheafant lays from eighteen 


to twenty eggs in a feafon ; but in a domeftic (late fhe fel- 
dom lays above ten. In the fame manner, when wild, ihe 
hatches and leads up her brood with patience, vigilance, and cpu- 
rage; but when kept tame, fhe never fits well ; fo that a hen 
is generally her fubllitute upon fuch occafions; and as for lead- 
ing her young to their food, (he is utterly ignorant of where it 
is to be found; and the young birds ftarve, if left folely to her 
protection. The pheafant, therefore, on every account, feems 
better left at large in the woods than reclaimed to priftine cap- 
tivity. Its fecundity, when wild, is fufncient to ftock the foreit ; 
its beautiful plumage adorns it; and its fle/h retains a higher 
flavour from its unlimited freedom. 

However, it has been the aim of late to take thefe birds ones 
more from the woods, and to keep them in places fitted for their 
reception. Like all others of the poultry kind, they have no great 
fagacity, and fufFer themfelves eafily to be taken. At night 
they roof! upon the highefl trees of the wood; and by day they 
come down into the lower brakes and buflies, where their food is 
chiefly found. They generally make a kind of flapping noife when 
they are with the females ; and this often apprizes the fportfman 
of their retreats. At other times he tracks them in the fnow, 
and frequently takes them in fpringes. But of all birds they are 
ihot moft eafily, as they always make a whirring noife when 
they rife, by which they alarm the gunner, and being a large 
mark, and flying very flow, there is fcarce any mifling them. 

Ah! what avail his gloffy, varying dyes, 

His purpled creft and fcarlet-circled eyes, 

The vivid green his {hining plumes unfold, 

His painted wings, and breaft that flames with gold ? 


When thefe birds are taken young into keeping, they become 
as familiar as chickens ; and when they are defigned for breed- 
ing, they are put together in a yard, five hens to a cock ; for this 
bird, like all of the poultry kind, is very falacious. In her natu- 
ral ftate the female makes her neft of dry grafs and leaves ; the 
fame muft be laid for her in the pheafandry, and fhe herfelf will 
fometimes properly difpofe them. If fhe refufes to hatch her eggs, 
then a common hen muft be got to fupply her place, which talk 

102 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

ihe will perform with perfeverance and fuccefs. The young 
ones are very difficult to be reared ; and they mufl be fupplied 
with ants-eggs, v/hich is the food the old one leads them to 
gather when wild in the wood*-. To make thefe go the far- 
ther, they are to be chopped up with curds or other meat ; and 
the young ones are to be fed with great cxa&nefs, both as to the 
quantity and the time of their fupply. This food is fometimes 
aifo to be varied, and wood-lice, : other infects, are 

to make a variety. The place where they an . mufl be 

kept extremely clean j their water mufl be en, in, .->::'. twice or 
thrice a day ; they mufl not be expofed till the dew is off the 
ground in the morning ; and they fliould always be taken in be- 
fore fun-fet. When they become adult, they very well can fhiffc 
for themfelves ; but they are particularly fond of oats and barley. 

In order to increafe the breed, and make it dill more valuable, 
Longolius teaches us a method that appears very peculiar. The 
pheafant is a very bold bird when firfl brought into the yard 
among other poultry, not fparing the peacock, nor even fuch 
young cocks and hens as it can mailer , but after a time it will 
live tamely among them, and will at iail be brought to couple 
with a common hen. The breed thus produced take much 
flronger after the pheafant than the hen : and in a few fuccef- 
fions, if they be let to breed with the cock -pheafant, for the mix- 
ture is not barren, there will be produced a fpecies more tame, 
flronger, and more prolific ; fo that he adds, that it is flrange why 
mofl of our pheafandries are not flocked with birds produced in 
this manner. 

The pheafant, when full grown, feems to feed indifferently up- 
on every thing that offers. It is faid by a French writer, that 
one of the king's fportfmen mooting at a parcel of crows, that 
were gathered round a dead carcafe, to his great furprize upon 
coming up, found that he had killed as many pheafants as crov/s. 
It is even afferted by fome, that fuch is the carnivorous difpofition 
of this bird, that when feveral of them are put together in the 
fame yard, if one of them happens to fall fick, or feems to be 
pining, all the reft will fall upon, kill, and devour it. Such is 
the language of books j thofe who have frequent opportunities 


of examining the manners of the bird iifelf, know what credit 
ought to be given to fuch an account. 

Of the pheafbnt, as of all other domcfHc fowl, there are many 
varieties. There are white pheafants, crefted pheafants, fpotted 
pheafants ; but of all others, the golden pheafant of China is the 
moil beautiful. It is a doubt whether the peacock itfelf can bear 
the comparifon. However, the natives of China would not have 
us confider it as their moil beautiful bird, though all covered 
over with eyes, refembling in miniature thofe of a peacock. By 
their accounts, it is far exceeded by the fongwhang, an imagi- 
nary bird, of which they give a moft fantaftic defcription. It 
is thus that the people of every country, though porXefTed of 
the greateft advantages, have ftill others that they would per- 
fuade ftrangers they enjoy 3 which have exiftence only in the 


The Pint a da or Guinea- Hen. 

THIS is a very remarkable bird, and in fome meafure 
unites the charac^eriiKcs of the pheafant and the turkey. 
It has the fine delicate fhape of the one, and the bare head of the 
other. To be more particular, it is about the fize of a common 
hen;- but as it is fupported on longer legs, it looks much larger. 
It has a round back, with a tail turned downwards like a par- 
tridge. The head is covered with a kind of cafque ; and the 
whole plumage is black or dark grey, fpeckled with white fpots. 
It has wattles under the bill, which do not proceed from the lower 
chap as in cocks, but from the upper, which gives it a very 
peculiar air, while its reftkfs gat and odd chuckling found dif- 
tinguifh it fufEciently from all other birds whatever. 

It is well known all over Europe, and even better than with 
us, as the nations that bordered on the Mediterranean probably 
had it before us from thofe parts cf Africa which lay nearer!. 
Accordinl we find it in different countries called *b different 


names, from the place whence they had it. They are by fome 
called the Barbary-hen ; by others, the Tamis bird; and by 
others, the bird of" Numidia. We have given it the name ot 
that part of Africa from whence probably it was firft brought. 

In many parts of their native country, they are feen in vaft 
flocks together, feeding their young, and leading them in queft 
of food. All their habits are like thofe of the poultry kind, and 
they agree in every other refpecl, except that the male and 
female are fo much alike, that they can hardly be diftinguimed 
afunder. The only difference lies in the wattles defcribed above, 
which in the cock are of a blueifh caft ; in the hen they are 
more inclining to a red. Their eggs, like their bodies, are 
ipeckled ; in our climate they lay but five or fix in a feafon ; but 
they are far more prolific in their fultry regions at home. They 
are kept among us rather for fnow than ufe, as their flefh is not 
much efteemed, and as they give a good deal of trouble in the 


The Bujlard. 

TH E buftard is the larger! land-bird that is a native of 
Britain. It was once much more numerous than it is at 
prefent ; but the increafed cultivation of the country, and the ex- 
treme delicacy of its flefh, have greatly thinned the fpecies ; fo 
that a time may come when it may be doubted whether ever fo 
large a bird was bred among us. It is probable that long be- 
fore this the buftard would have been extirpated, but for its pe- 
culiar manner of feeding. Had it continued to fock flicker 
among our woods, in proportion as they were cut down, it muil 
have been dcrrroyed. If in the forefl, the fowler might approach 
it without being feen ; and the bird, from its fize, would be too 
great a mark to be eafily mi/Ted. But it inhabits only the open 
and extenfive plain where its food lies in abundance, and where 
cverv invader may be feen at a diflance. 


The buftard is much larger than the turkey, the male ge- 
nerally weighing from twenty-five to twenty-feven pounds. 
The neck is a foot long, and the legs a foot and an half. The wings 
are not proportionable to the reft of the body, being but four feet 
from the tip of one to the other; for which reafon the bird flies 
with great difficulty. The head and neck of the male are afh- 
coloured; the back is barred tranfverfely with black, bright, 
and ruft colour. The greater quill feathers are black; the 
belly white: and the tail, which confifts of twenty feathers, is 
marked with broad black bars. 

It would feem odd, as was hinted before, how fo large a land 
bird as this could find mdter in fo cultivated a country as Eng- 
land ; but the wonder will ceafe, when we find it only in the 
moft open countries, where there is fcarce any approaching with- 
out being difcovered. They are frequently feen in flocks of fifty 
or more, in the extenfive downs of Salifbury Plain, in the heaths 
of SufTex and Cambridgemire, the Dorfetmirc uplands, and fo 
on as far as Eaft Lothian in Scotland. In thofe extenfive plains, 
where there are no woods to fcreen the fportfman, nor hedges to 
creep along, the buftards enjoy an indolent fecurity. Their food 
is compofed of the berries that grow among the heath, and the 
large earth-worms that appear in great quantities on the downs 
before fun-rifing in fummer. It is in vain that the fowler creeps 
forward to approach them, they have always centinels placed at 
proper eminences, which are ever on the watch, and warn the 
flock of the fmalleft appearance of danger. All therefore that is 
left the fportfman, is the comfortlefs view of their diftant fecu- 
rity. He may wifh, but they are in fafety. 

It fometimes happens, that thefe birds, though they are feldom 
fhot by the gun, are run down by greyhounds. As they are 
voracious and greedy, they often facrifice their fafety to their 
appetite, and feed themfelves fo very fat, that they are unable to 
fly without great preparation. When the greyhound, therefore, 
comes wihtin a certain diftance, the buftard runs ofF flapping its 
wings, and endeavouring to gather air enough under them to rife ; 
in the mean time the enemy approaches nearer and nearer, till it 
is too late for the bird even to think of obtaining fafety by flight ? 



for juft at the rife there is always time loft, and of this the bird is 
fenfible; it continues, therefore, on the foot until it has got a fuf- 
ficient way before the dog for flight, or until it is taken. 

As there are few places where they can at once find proper food 
and fecurity, fo they generally continue near their old haunts, fel- 
dom wandering above twenty or thirty miles from home. As their 
food is replete with moifture,it enables them to live upon thofe dry 
plains, where there are fcarcely any fprings of v/ater, a long time 
without drinking. Bendes this, Nature has given the males an 
admirable magazine for their fecurity againft thirfr. This is a 
pouch, the entrance of which lies immediately under the tongue, 
and capable of holding near feven quarts of water. This is pro- 
bably filled upon proper occafions, to fupply the hen when fitting, 
or the young before they can fly. 

Like all other birds of the poultry-kind, they change their mates 
at the feafon of incubation, which is about the latter end of fum- 
mer. They feparate in pairs if there be a fufficiency of females 
for the males ; but when this happens to be otherwife, the males 
fight until one of them falls. In France, they often find fome of 
thofe victims to gallantry dead in the fields, and no doubt are 
not difpleafed at the occafion. 

They make their nefts upon the ground, only juft fcraping a 
hole in the earth, and fome times lining it with a little long grafs 
or ftraw. There they lay two eggs only, almoft of the fize of a 
goofe-egg, of a pale olive brown, marked with fpots of a darker 
colour. They hatch, for about five weeks, and the young ones 
run about as foon as they are out of the fliell. 

The budards aflemble in flocks in the month of October, and 
.keep together till April. In winter, as their food becomes more 
fcarce, they fupport themfelves indifcriminately, by feeding on 
moles, mice, and even little birds, when they can feize them. For 
want of other food, they are contented to live upon turnep leaves 
and fuch like fucculent vegetables. In fome parts of S witzerland, 
they are found frozen in the fields in fevere weather; but when 
taken to a warm place they again recover. They ufually live 
fifteen years, and are incapable of being propagated in a domeftic 
ftate, as they probably want that food which befl agrees with 
their appetite. 




The Groits and its Affinities. 

II E Cock of the wood, the Black Cock, the Grous, and 
the Ptarmigan Thefe are all birds of a fimilar nature, 
and chiefly found in heathy mountains and piny forefts, at a dif- 
tance frot-n mankind. They might once indeed have been com- 
mon enough ail over England, when a great part of the country 
was covered with heath ; but at prefent their numbers are thin- . 
ned : the two firft of this kind are utterly unknown in the fouth, 
and have taken refuge in the northern parts of Scotland, where 
the extenfive heaths afford them fecurity, and the forefts flicker. 

The cock of the wood is fometimes of the fize of a turkey, 
and often weighs near fourteen pounds : the black cock, of which 
the male is all over black, though the female is of the colour of 
a partridge, is about the fize of a hen, and, like the former, is 
only found with us in the highlands of Scotland ; the grous is 
about half as large again as a partridge, and its colour much like 
that of a woodcock, but redder i the ptarmigan is ftill fome- 
what lefs, and is of a pale brown or afh -colour. They are alt 
diftinguifhable from other birds of the poultry kind, by a naked 
fkin, of a fcarlet colour, above the eyes, in the place and of the 
figure of eye-brows. 

It feems to be fomething extraordinary, that all the larger 
wild animals of every fpecies choofe the darkeft and the inmoft 
recefles of the woods for their refidence, while the fmaller kinds 
come more into the open and cultivated parts, where there is 
more food and more danger. It is thus with the birds I am de- 
fcribing : while the cock of the. wood is feldom feen, except on the 
inacceffible parts of heathy mountains, or in the midft of piny 
forefts, the grous is found, in great numbers, in the neighbour- 
hood of corn fields, where there is heath to afford retreat and 
(belter. Their food too fomewhat differs : while the fmaller 
kind lives upon heath bloiforns, cranberries, and corn, the larger 


feeds upon the cones of the pine-tree; and will fometimes en- 
tirely ftrip one tree, before it offers to touch thofe of another, 
though juft befide him. In other refpeds, the manners of thefe 
birds are the fame ; being both equally fimple in their diet, and 
licentious in their amours. 

The Cock of the Wood, for it is from him we will take our 
defcription, is, as was faid, chiefly fond of a mountainous and 
woody fituation. In winter he reildes in the darkeft and inmoft 
part of the woods ; in fummer he ventures down from his re- 
treats, to make (hort depredations on the farmer's corn. The 
delicacy of his flefh in fome meafure fets a high pries upon his 
head ; and as he is greatly fought after, fo he continues, when 
he comes down from the hills, always on his guard. Upon thefe 
occafions, he is feldom furprized; and thofe who would take 
him, muft venture up to find him in his native retreats. 

The cock of the wood, when in the forefl, attaches himfelf 
principally to the oak and the pine-tree ; the cones of the latter 
ferving for his food, and the thick boughs for an habitation. He 
even makes a choice of what cones he {hall feed upon ; for he fome- 
times will ftrip one tree bare before he will deign to touch the cones 
of another. He feeds alfo upon ant's eggs, which feem a high de- 
licacy to ajl birds of the poultry kind: cranberries are likewife 
often found in his crop : and his gizzard, like that of domeftic 
fowls, contains a quantity of gravel, for the purpofes of aflifting 
his powers of digeftion. 

At the earlieft return of fpring, this bird begins to feel 
the genial influence of the feafon. During the month of 
March, the approaches of courtfhip are continued, and do 
not defift till the trees have all their leaves, and the foreft is 
in full bloom. During this whole feafon, the cock of the wood 
is feen, at fun-rife and fitting, extremely active upon one of the 
largeft branches of the pine-tree. With his tail raifed and ex- 
panded like a fan, and the wings drooping, he is feen walking 
backward and forward, his neck ftretched out, his head fwollen 
and red, and making a thoufand ridiculous poftures : his cry, up- 
on that occafion, is a kind of loud explofion, which is inftantly 
followed by a noife like the whetting of a fcythe, which ceafes and 


commences alternatively for about an hour, and is then ter- 
minated by the fame explofion. 

During the time this fingular cry continues,- the bird feems en- 
tirely deaf, and infenfible of every danger: whatever noife may- 
be made near him, or even though fired at, he {till continues his 
call ; and this is the time that (portfmen generally take to fhoot 
him. Upon all other occafions, he is the moft timorous and 
watchful bird in nature : but now he feems entirely abforbed by 
his inftinch; and feldom leaves the place where he firft begins 
to feel the accefles of defire. This extraordinary cry, which is 
accompanied by a clapping of the wings, is no fooner fmifhed, 
than the female hearing it, replies, approaches, and places her- 
felf under the tree, from whence the cock defcends to impregnate 
her. The number of females that, on this occafion, refort to his 
call, is uncertain ; but one male generally fuffices for all. 

The female is much lefs than her mate, and entirely unlike 
him in plumage; fo that fhe might be miftaken for a bird of 
another fpecies : fhe feldom lays more than fix or feveh eggs, 
which are white, and marked with yellow, and of the fize of a 
common hen's egg : fhe generally lays them in a dry place and a 
mofTy ground, and hatches them without the company of the 
cock. When flie is obliged, during the time of incubation, to 
leave her eggs in queft of food, fhe covers them up fo artfully, 
with mofs or dry leaves, that it is extremely difficult to difcover 
them. On this occafion, fhe is extremely tame and tranquil, 
however wild and timorous in ordinary. She often keeps to her 
neft, though Grangers attempt to drag her away. 

As foon as the young ones are hatched, they are feen running 
with extreme agility after the mother, though fometimes they are 
not entirely difengagedfrom the fliell. The hen leads them for- 
ward, for the firft time, into the woods, fhews them ants' eggs, 
and the wild mountain-berries, which, while young, are their omy 
food. As they grow older, their appetites grow ftronger, and 
they then feed upon the tops of hether and the cones of the pine- 
tree. In this manner they foon come to perfection : they are an 
hardy bird, their food lies every where before them, and it would 
feem that they fhould increafe in great abundance. But this is 


not the cafe ; their numbers are thinned by rapacious birds and 
beafts of every kind; and frill more by their own falacious 

As foon as the clutching is over, which the female performs in 
the manner of an hen, the whole brood follows the mother for 
about a month or two ; at the end of which the young males en- 
tirely forfake her, and keep in great harmony together till the be- 
ginning of fpring. At this feafon, they begin, for the firft time, 
to feel the genial accefs 5 and then adieu to all their former friend- 
ihips ! They begin to confider each other as rivals ; and the rage 
of concupifcence quite extinguifhcs the fpirit of fociery. They 
fight each other like game-Cocks ; and at that time are fo inat- 
tentive to their own fafety, that it often happens that two or three 
of them are killed at a fliot. It is probable, that in thefe con- 
tefts, the bird which comes off victorious, takes pofTeffion of 
the female feraglio, as it is certain they have no faithful at- 
tachments *. 


Of tie Partridge and Its Varieties. 

TH E Partridge may be particularly confidered as belong- 
ing to the fportiman. It is a bird which even our laws 
have taken under protection ; and, like a peacock or a hen, may 
be ranked as private property. The only difference now is, 
that we feed - one in our farms, the other in our yards ; that thefe 
are contented captives ; thofe, fervants that have it in their power 
to change their mailer, by changing their habitation. 

* Thefe birds," fays Willoughby, " hold the principal place 
" in the feails and entertainments of princes ; without which 
" their feafts are efteemed ignoble, vulgar, and of no account. 
" The Frenchmen do fo highly value, and are fo fond of the par- 
" tridge, that if they be wanting, they utterly flight and defpife 

* This account of tht Cock of the Wood is tak<yi froaa &c Journal Economic, 
apd saay be relied on. 


* the beft fpread tables ; as if there could be no feaft without 
" them." But however this might be in the times of our hifto- 
rian, the partridge is now too common in France to be considered 
as a delicacy ; and this, as well as every other fimple difh, is ex- 
ploded for luxuries of a more compound invention. 

In England, where the partridge is much foarcsr, and a great 
deal dearer, it is ftill a favourite delicacy at the tables of the rich ; 
and thedefireof keeping it to themfelves, has induced them to 
make laws for its preservation, no way harmonizing with the 
general fpirit of Englifh legiflation. What can be more ar- 
bitrary than to talk of preserving the game ; which, when de- 
fined, means no more than that the poor fhall abftain from what 
the rich have taken a fancy to keep for themfslves r ? If thefe birds 
could, like a cock or a hen, be made legal property, could they be 
taught to keep within certain diftricTis, and only feed on thofe 
grounds that belong to the man whofe entertainments they im- 
prove, it then might, with fome ihew of juilice, be admitted, that 
as a man fed them, fo he might claim them. But this is not the 
Cafe; nor is it in any man's power to lay a reftraint upon the li- 
berty of thefe birds, which when letloofe, put no limits to their ex- 
curfions. They feed every where ; upon every man's ground : and 
no man can fay, thefe birds are fed only by me. Thofe birds 
which are nourifhed by all, belong to all; nor can any one man, 
or any fet of men, lay claim to them, when flill continuing in a 
ilate of nature. 

I never walked out about the environs of Paris, that I did not 
confider the immenfe quantity of game that was running almoft 
tame on every fide of me, as a badge of the flavery of the people ; 
and what they wiflied me to obferve as a badge of triumph, I al- 
ways regarded with a kind of fecret companion* yet this people 
have no game-laws for the remoter 'parts of the kingdom ; the 
game is only preferved in a few places for the king; and is free 
in moft places elfe. In England, the prohibition is general; and 
the peafant has not a right to what even flaves, as he is taught to 
call them, are found to pofTefs. 

Of partridges there are two kinds ; the grey and the red. The 
red partridge is the largeft of the two, and often perches upon 


trees ; the grey, with which we are belt acquainted in England, 
is moft prolific, and always keeps on the ground. 

The partridge feems to be a bird well known all over the world, 
ancHt is found in every country, and in every climate ; as well in 
the frozen regions about the pole, as the torrid traces under the 
equator. It even feems to adapt itfelf to the nature of the cli- 
mate where it refides. In Greenland, the partridge, which is 
brown in fu miner, as foon as the icy winter fets in, begins to take 
a covering fuited to the feafon: it is then clothed with a warm 
down beneath; and its outward plumage aflumes the colour of 
the fnows among which it feeks its food. Thus it is doubly 
fitted for the place, by the warmth and the colour of its plumage; 
the one to defend it from the cold, the other to prevent its being 
noticed by the enemy. Thofe of Barakonda, on the other hand, 
are longer legged, much fwifter of foot, and choofe the higheft 
rocks and precipices to refide in. 

They all, however, agree in one character, of being immo- 
derately addicted to venery; and, as feme writers affirm, often 
to an unnatural degree. It is certain, the male will purfuc the 
hen even to her neft: and will break her eggs, rather than not 
indulge his inclinations. Though the young ones have kept 
together in flocks during the winter, when they begin to pair in 
ipring, their fociety difperfes ; and combats, very terrible with re- 
fpedl: to each other, enfue. Their manners, in other circum- 
itances, refemble all thofe of poultry in general ; but their cun- 
ning and inftindts ftem fuperior to thofe of the larger kinds. Per- 
haps as they live in the very neighbourhood of their enemies, 
they have more frequent occafion to put their little arts in prac- 
tice ; and learn, by habit, the means of evafion or fafety. When- 
ever, therefore, a dog or other formidable animal approaches 
their neft, the female ufes every means to draw him away. She 
keeps juft before him, pretends to be incapable of flying, juft 
hops up and then falls down before him, but never goes off fo 
far as to difcourage her purfuer. At length, when Ihe has drawn 
him entirely away from her fecret treafure, file at once takes 
wing, and fairly leaves him to gaze after her in dcfpair. 


After the danger is over, and the dog withdrawn, fhe then 
calls her young, who affemble at once at her cry, and follow 
where fhe leads them. There are generally from ten to fifteen 
in a covey ; and, if unmolefted, they live from fifteen to feven- 
teen years. 

There are feveral methods of taking them, as is well known ; 
that by which they are taken in a net, with a fetting dog, is the 
moft pleafant, as well as the moft fecure. The dog, as every 
body knows, is trained to this exercife, by a long courfe of edu- 
cation : by blows and carefTes he is taught to lie down at the 
word of command ; a partridge is {hewn him, and he is then or-' 
dered to lie down ; he is brought into the field, and when the 
fportfman perceives where the covey lies, he orders his dog to 
crouch; at length the dog, from habit, crouches wherever he ap- 
proaches a covey; and this is the fignal which the fportfman re- 
ceives for unfolding and covering the birds with his net. A co- 
vey thus caught, is fometimes fed in a place proper for their re- 
ception ; but they can never be thoroughly tamed, like the reft 
of our domeftic poultry. 



The uail. 

HE'laft of the poultry kind that I fhall mention, is the 
quail ; a bird much fmaller than any of the former, being 
not above half the fize of a partridge. The feathers of the head 
areblack, edged with rufty brown ; thebreaft is of a pale yellowifll 
red, fpotted with black ; the feathers on the back are marked with 
lines of a pale yellow, and the legs are of a pale hue. Except in the 
colours thus defcribed, and the fize, it every way refembles a 
partridge in fhape; and except that it is a bird of pafTagc, all 
others of the poultry kind, in its habits and nature. 

The quail is by all known to be a bird of paflage ; and yet, if 
we confider its heavy manner of flying, and its dearth of plu- 



mage, with refpeft to its corpulence, we fhall be furprized how 
a bird fo apparently ill qualified for migration, mould take fuch 
extenfive journies. Nothing, however, is more certain : " When 
" we failed from Rhodes to Alexandria," fays Bellonius, " about 
" autumn, many quails, flying from the north to the fouth, were 
" taken in our fhip ; and failing at fpring-time, the contrary 
" way, from the fouth to the north, I obferved them on their re- 
" turn, when many of them were taken in the fame manner." 
This account is confirmed by many others ; who aver, that they 
choofe a north wind for thefe adventures ; the fouth wind being 
very unfavorable, as it retards their flight, by moiftening their 
plumage. They then fly two by two; continuing, when their 
way lies over land, to go fader by night than by day ; and to 
fly very high to avoid being furprifed or fet upon by birds of prey. 
However, it ftill remains a doubt whether quails take fuch long 
journies as Bellonius has made them perform. It is now af- 
ferted by fome, that the quail only migrates from one province 
of a country, to another. For inftance, in England, they fly 
from the inland counties, to thofe bordering on the fea, and con- 
tinue there all the winter. If frofl or fnow drive them out of 
the ftubble fields or marmes, they then retreat to the fea fide, fnel- 
ter themfelves among the weeds, and live upon what is thrown 
up from the fea upon more. Particularly in EfTex, the time of 
their appearance upon the coafts of that county exactly coincides 
with their difappeararice from the more internal parts of the 
kingdom; fo that what has been faid of their long flights, is pro- 
bably not fo well founded as is generally fuppofed. 

Thefe birds arc much lefs prolific than the partridge ; feldom 
laying more than frx or feven whitifh eggs, marked with rao-- 
ged, ruft-coloured fpots. But their ardour in courtfhip yields 
fcarce to any other bird, as they are fierce and cruel at that fea- 
fon to each other, fighting moffc dcfperately, and (a punifhment 
they richly deferve) being at that time eafily taken. Quail- 
fighting was a favourite amufment among the Athenians ; they 
abftained from the flefh of this bird, deeming it unwholefome, 
as fuppofing that it fed upon the white hellebore ; but they reared 
great numbers of them, for the pleafure of feeing them fight ; 
and flaked fums of money, as we do with regard to cocks, upon 


the fuccefs of the combat. Fafhion, however, has at prefent 
changed with regard to this bird ; we take no pleafure in its cou- 
rage ; but its flefli is confidered as a very great delicacy. 

Quails are eafily caught by a call : the fowler, early in the 
morning, having fpread his net, hides himfelf under it, among the 
corn : he then imitates the voice of the female, with his Quail- 
pipe, which the cock hearing, approaches with the utmoft affi- 
duity ; when he has got under the net, the fowler then difcovers 
himfelf, and terrifies the quail, who, attempting to get away, en- 
tangles himfelf the more in the net, and is taken. The quail 
may thus very well ferve to illuftrate the old adage, that every 
paffion, carried to an inordinate excefs, will at laft lead to ruin. 



Birds of the Pie Kind. 

IN marfhalling our army of the feathered creation, we have 
placed in the van a race of birds long bred to war, and whofe 
paffion is {laughter; in the centre, we have placed the flow and 
heavy laden, that are ufually brought into the field to be deftroy- 
ed ; we now come to a kind of light infantry, that partake fome- 
thing of the fpirit of the two former, and y^t belong to neither. 
In this clafs we mud be content to marmal a numerous irreo-u- 


lar tribe, variously armed, with different purfuits, appetites, and 
manners ; not formidably formed for war, and yet generally de- 
lighting in mifchief ; not fiowly and ufefully obedient, and yet 
without any profefled enmity to the reft of their fellow tenants of 


To fpeak without metaphor, under this clafs of birds we may 
arrange all that noify, reftlefs, chattering, teizing tribe that lies 
between the hen and the thrufli, that, from the fize of the raven 
down to that of the wood-pecker, flutter round our habitations, 
and, rather with the fpirit of pilferers than of robbers, make free 
with the fruits of human induflry. 

Of all the clafies, this feems to be that which the lead 
contributes to furnifh out the pleafures or fupply the necefiities 
of man. The falcon hunts for him ; the poultry tribe fupplies 
him with luxurious food ; and the little fparrow race delight him 
with the melody of their warblings. The crane kind make a 
fludied variety in his entertainments ; and the clafs of ducks are 
not only many of them delicate in their flefli, but extremly ufe- 
ful for their feathers. But in the clafs of the pie kind there are 


few, except the pigeon, that are any way ufeful. They ferve ra- 
ther to teize man than to affift or amufe him. Like faithlefs &r- 
vants, they are fond of his neighbourhood, becaufe they moftly 
live by his labour; but their chief ftudy is what they can plunder 
in his abfence, while their deaths make him no atonement for 
their depredation. 

But though, with refpect to man, this whole clafs is rather 
noxious than beneficial though he rriay confider them in this 
light, as falfe, noify, troublefome neighbours, yet, with refpecl: to 
each other, no clafs of birds are fo ingenious, fo active, or fo well 
fitted for fociety. Could we fuppofe a kind of morality among 
birds, we fhould find that thefe are by far the moft induftrious, 
the moft faithful, the moft conftant, and the moft connubial. The 
rapacious kinds drive out their young before they are fit to ftrug- 
gle with adverfity ; but the pie kind cherifh their young to the 
laft. The poultry clafs are faithlefs and promifcuous in their 
courtfhip; but thefe live in pairs, and their attachments are 
wholly confined to each other. The fparrow kind frequently 
over-leap the bounds of nature, and make illicit varieties ; but 
thefe never. They live in harmony with each other j every fpe- 
cies is true to its kind, and tranfmits an unpolluted race to pofte- 

As other kinds build in rocks or upon the ground, the chief 
place where thefe bu-ild is in trees or bufhcs ; the male takes his 
fhare in the labours of building the neft; and often relieves his 
mate in the duties of incubation. Both take this office by turn ; 
and when the young are excluded, both are equally active in 
making them an ample provifion. 

They fometimes live in focieties ; and in thefe are general laws 
obferved, and a kind of republican form of government eftablifhed 
among them. They watch not only for the general fafety, but 
for that of every other bird of the grove. How often have we 
feen a fowler, ftealing in upon a flock of ducks or wild geefc, dif- 
turbed by the alarming note of a crow or a magpie ! its finglc 
voice gave the whole thoughtlefs tribe warning, and taught them 
in good time to look to their fafety. 


Nor are thefc birds lefs remarkable for their inftincts than 
their capacity for inftruction. There is an apparent cunning or 
archnefs in the look of the whole tribe ; and I have feen crows 
and ravens taught to fetch and carry, with the docility of a fpa- 
niel. Indeed, it is often an exercife, that, without teaching, all this 
tribe are but too fond of. Every body knows what a paffion 
they have for fhining fubftances, and fuch toys as fonie of us put 
a value on. A whole family has been alarmed at the lofs of a 
ring ; every fervant has been accufed, and every creature in the 
houfe, confcious of their own innocence, fufpected each other, 
when, to the utter furprize of all, it has been found in the neft of 
a tame magpie or a jack-daw, that nobody had ever thought of. 

However, as this clafs is very numerous, it is not to be fup- 
pofed that the manners are alike in all. Some, fuch as the pigeon, 
are gentle and ferviceable to man; others are noxious, capricious, 
and noify. In a few general characters they all agree ; namely, 
in having hoarfe voices, flight active bodies, and a facility of 
flight, that baffles even the boldeft of the rapacious kinds in the 
purfuit. I will begin with thofe birds which may be faid to be- 
long to this clafs, and go on till I finifh with the pigeon, an harm- 
lefs bird, that refembles this tribe in little elfe except their fize ; 
and that feems to be the fliade uniting the pie and the fparrow 
kind in one general picture. 

It is not to be expected, that in this fketch of the great maga- 
zine of nature, we can flop fingly to contemplate every object. 
To defer ibe the number that offers would be tedious, and the 
fimilitude that one bears another, would make the hiftory dif- 
gufting. As an hiftorian in relating the actions of fome noble 
people, does not flop to give the character of every private man 
in the army, but only of fuch as have been diftinguifhed by their 
conduct, courage or treachery ; fo mould the hiftorian of nature, 
only feize upon the moft finking objects before him; and, having 
given one common account of the mofl remarkable, refer the 
peculiarities of the reft to their general defcription. 



Of the Raven , the Crow, and their Affinities. 

TH E raven, the carrion-crow, and the rook, are birds fo 
well known, that a long defcription would but obfcure 
our ideas of them. The raven is the largeft of the three, and 
diftinguimed from the reft not only by his fize, but by his bill, 
being fomewhat more hooked than that of the reft. As for the 
carrion-crow and the rook, they fo ftrongly refemble each other, 
both in make and fize, that they are not eafily diftinguifhed 
afunder. The chief difference to be found between them, lies in 
the bill of the rook ; which, by frequently being thruft into the 
ground to fetch out grubs and earth-worms, is bare of feathers 
as far as the eyes, and appears of a whitifh colour. It differs 
alfo in the purple fplendor or glofs of its feathers, which, in the 
carrion-crow, are of a more dirty black. Nor is it amifs to make 
thefe diftinctions, as the rook has but too frequently fuffered for 
its fimilituue to the carrion-crow ; and thus an harmlefs bird, 
that feeds only upon infects and corn, has been deftroyed for 
another that feeds upon carrion, and is often deftru6tive among 
young poultry. 

The manners of the raven and the carrion-crow are exaclly 
fimilar; they both feed upon carrion; they fly only in pairs; 
and will deftroy other birds, if they can take them by furprize. 
But it is very different with the rook, the daw, and the Corniih 
chough, which may be all ranked in this order. They are fociable 
and harmlefs ; they live upon infects and grain ; and wherever 
they are, infteaci injuring other birds, they feern ccntinels for the 
whole feathered creation. It v/ill be proper, therefore, to def- 
cribe thele two forts according to their rofpeciive appetites, as they 
have nothing in com "n >:i, but the veryftrong fimilitude they bear 
to each other, in thjir c Jour and formation. 

The raven is a bird found in every region of the world: ftrong 
and hardy, he is uninfluenced by the changes of the weather ; 
and when other birds feem numbed with cold, or pining v/ith 


famine, the. raven is active and healthy, bufily employed in 
prowling for prey, or fporting in the coldeft atmofphere. As 
the heats at the line do not opprefs him, fo he bears the cold of 
the polar countries with equal indifference. He is ibmetimes 
indeed feen milk white : and this may probably be the effect of 
the rigorous climates of the north. It is melt likely that this 
change is wrought upon him as upon molt other animals in 
that part of the world, where their robes, particularly in winter, 
affu me the colour of the country they inhabit. As in old age, 
when the natural heat decays, the hair grows grey, and at lafr. 
white; fo among thefe animals, the cold of the climate may pro- 
duced a fimilar languifhment of colour, and may fhut up thofe 
pores that conveyed the tincturing fluids to the cxtremeil parts 
of the body. 

However this may be, white ravens are often fhown among 
us, which, I have heard fome fay, are rendered thus by art ; and 
this we could readily fuppofe if they were as eafily changed in 
their colour as they are altered in their habits and difpofitions. A 
raven may be reclaimed to almofr, every purpofe, to which birds 
can be converted. He may be trained up for fowling like an 
hawk; he may be taught to fetch and carry like a fpaniel ; he 
may be taught to fpeak like a parrot ; but the moft extraordinary 
of all is, that he can be taught to fing like a man. I have heard 
a raven fing the Black Joke with great diftin&nefs, truth, and 

Indeed, when the raven is taken as a domefdc, he has many 
qualities that render him extremely amufmg. Bufy, inquifitive, 
and impudent, he goes every where, affronts and drives off the 
doo;s, plays his pranks on the poultry, and is particularly affidu- 
ous in cultivating the good will of the cook-maid, who feetns 
to be the favourite of the family. But then, with the amufmg 
qualities of a favourite, he often alfo has the vices and defects. 
He is a glutton by nature, and a thief by habit. He does not 
confine himfelf to petty depredations on the pantry or the larder; 
he foars at more magnificent plunder ; at fpoils that he can nei- 
ther exhibit nor enjoy ; but which, like a miter, he refts fatisfied 
with having the fatisfaclion of fometimes vifiting and contem- 
plating in fecret. A piece of money, a tea-fpoon, or a ring, 


are always tempting baits to his avarice ; thefe he will flily fcize 
upon, and if not watched will carry to his favourite hole. 

In his wild ftate, the raven is an active and greedy plunderer. 
Nothing comes amifs to him j whether his prey be living or 
long dead, it is all the fame, he falls to with a voracious appe- 
tite; and when he has gorged himfelf, flies to acquaint his fel-^ 
lows, that they may participate of the fpoil* If the carcafe be 
already in the pofTeflion of fome more powerful animal, a wolf$ 
a fox, or a dog, the raven fits at a little diftance^ content to con-* 
tinue an humble fpectator till they have done. If in his flights he 
perceives no hopes of carrion, and his fcent is fo exquifite that he 
can fmell it at a vaft diftance, he then contents himfelf with more 
unfavoury food, fruits, infects, and the accidental defert of a 

This bird chiefly builds its neft in trees, and lays five or fi? 
eggs, of a pale green colour, marked with fmall brownifh fpots. 
They live fometimes in pairs, and fometimes they frequent in 
great numbers the neighbourhood of populous cities^ where they 
are ufeful in devouring thofe carcafTes that would otherwife pu- 
trefy and infect the air. They build in high trees or old towers^ 
in the beginning of March with us in England, and fometimes 
fooner, as the fpring is more or lefs advanced for the feafon. But 
it is not always near towns that they fix their retreats : they 
often build in unfrequented places, and drive all other birds from 
their vicinity. They will riot permit even their young to keep 
in the fame diftrict, but drive them off when they are fufficiently 
able to fhift for themfelves* Martin, in his description of the 
Weftern Ifles, avers, that there are three little iflands among 
the number, which are occupied by a pair of ravens each, that 
drive off all other birds with great cries and impetuofity. 

Notwithftanding the injury thefe birds do in picking out the 
eyes of fheep and lambs, when they find them fick and helplefs, a 
Vulgar refpect is paid them, as being the birds that fed the pro- 
phet Elijah in the wildernefs. This prepoiTeffion in favour of the 
raven is of a very ancient date, as the Romans themfelvcs, who 
thought the bird ominous, paid it, from motives of fear, the moft 
profound veneration. One of thefe that had been kept in the tern- 



p!o of Caftor, as Pliny informs us, flew down into the (hop of 
a taylor, who took much delight in the vifits of his new ac- 
quaintance. He taught the bird feveral tricks ; but particularly 
to pronounce the names of the emperor Tiberius and the whole 
royal family. The taylor was beginning to grow rich by thofe 
who came to fee this wonderful raven, till an envious neighbour, 
difpleafed at the taylor's fuccefs, killed the bird, and deprived the 
taylor of his future hopes of fortune. The Romans, however, 
took the poor taylor's part ; they punifhed the man who offered 
the injury, and gave the raven all the honours of a magnificent 

Birds in general live longer than quadrupeds ; and the raven is 
faid to be one of the moft long-lived of the number. Hefiod af- 
ferts that a raven will live nine times as long as a man ; but 
though this is fabulous, it is certain that fome of them have been 
known to live near an hundred years. This animal feems pof- 
fefled of thofe qualities that generally produce longevity, a good 
appetite and great exercife. In clear weather, the ravens fly in 
pairs to a great height, making a deep loud noife, different from 
that of their ufual croaking. 

The carrion-crow refembles the raven in its appetites, its 
laying, and manner of bringing up its young. It only differs in 
being lefs bold, lefs docile, and lefs favoured by mankind. 

The rook leads the way in another, but a more harmlefs train, 
that have no carnivorous appetites, but only feed upon infers and 
corn. The Royfton crow is about the fize of the two former. 
The breaft, belly, back, and upper part of the neck, being of a 
pale-afh colour ; the head and wings gloffed over with a fine 
blue. He is a bird of paffage, vifiting this kingdom in the begin- 
ning of winter, and leaving it in the fpring. He breeds, however, 
i-.\ different parts of the Britim dominions ; and his neft is com- 
mon enough in trees in Ireland. The jackdaw is black, like all 
the former, but afh coloured on the breafl and belly. He is docile 
and loquacious ; his head being large for the fize of his body, 
which, as has been remarked, argues him ingenious and crafty. 
He builds in fteeples, old cailles, and high rocks, laying five or 
fix eggs in a feafon. The Cornjfh chough is like a jack-day/, but 


bigger, and almoft the fize'of a crow. The feet and legs ar; 
long, like thofe of a jackdaw, of a red colour ; and the plumage 
is black all over. It frequents rocks, old caftles, and churches, 
by the fea-fide, like the daw ; and with the fame noify affiduity. 
It is only feen along the weftern coafts of England. Thefe are 
birds very fimilar in their manners, feeding on grain and infects, 
living in fociety, and often fuffering general caftigation from the 
flock for the good of the community. 

The rook, as is well known, builds in woods and forefts in the 
neighbourhood of man, and fometimes makes choice of groves in 
the very midft of cities for the place of its retreat and fecurity. In 
thefe it eftablifhes a kind of legal conftitution, by which all in- 
truders are excluded from coming to live among them, and none 
fuffered to build but acknowledged natives of the place. I have 
often amufed myfelf with obferving their plan of policy from my 
window in the Temple, that looks upon a grove where they have 
made a colony in the midft of the city. At the commencement of 
fpring, the rookery, which during the continuance of winter feemed 
to have been defertcd, or only guarded by about five or fix, like 
old foldiers in a garrifon, now begins to be once more frequented ; 
and in a fhort time all the buttle and hurry of bufmefs is fairly 
commenced. Where thefe numbers refided during the winter is 
not eafy to guefs ; perhaps in the trees of hedge-rows to be nearer 
their food. In fpring, however, they cultivate their native trees, 
and, in the places where they were themfelves hatched,- they 
prepare to propagate a future progeny, 

They keep together in pairs, and when the offices of courtfhip 
are over, they prepare for making their nefts and laying. The old 
inhabitants of the place are all already provided ; the neft, which 
ferved them for years before, with a little trimming and dreffing, 
will ferve very well again ; the difficulty of neftling lies only upon 
the young ones who have no neft, and muft therefore get up one 
as well as they can. But not only the materials are wanting, 
but alfo the place in which to fix it. Every part of a tree will 
not do for this purpofe, as fome branches may not be fufficiently 
forked; others may not be fufficiently ftrong ; and ftill others 
may be too much expofed to the rockings of the wind. The 
male and female upon this occafion are, for fome days, feen 


examining all the trees of the grove very attentively ; and when 
they have fixed upon a branch that feems fit for their purpofe, they 
continue to fit upon and obferve it very feduloufly for two or three 
days longer. The place -being thus determined upon, they be- 
gin to gather the ma tends for their ncft ; fuch as flicks and 
fibrous roots, which they regularly difpofe in the moft fubftantial 
manner. But here a new and unexpected obftacle arifjs. It 
often happens, that the young couple have made choice of a place 
too near the manfion of an older pair, who do not choofe to be in- 
commoded by fuch troublefome neighbours. A quarrel there- 
fore inftantly enfues, in which the old ones are always victorious. 

The young couple, thus expelled, are obliged again to go 
through the fatigues of deliberating, examining, andchoofing; 
and having taken care to keep their due distance, the neft begins 
again, and their induftry defer ves commendation. But their ala- 
crity is often too great in the beginning; they foon grow weary of 
bri;;g;! g the materials of their neft from diftant places ; and they 
very eaiily perceive that fticks may be provided nearer home, with 
lefs honeily indeed, but fome degree of addrefs. Away they 
go, therefore, to pilfer as faft as they can ; and wherever they 
fee a neft unguarded, they take care to rob it of the very choiceft 
{licks of which it is compofed, But thefe thefts never go un- 
punifhed ; ana probably upon complaint being made, there is a 
general punimment inflicted. I have feen eight or ten rooks 
come upon fuch occafions, and fetting upon the new neft of the 
young couple, all at once, tear it in pieces in a moment. 

At length therefore the young pair find the neceffity of going 
more regularly and honcftly to work. While one flies to fetch 
the materials, the other fits upon the tree to guard it ; and thus 
in the f of three or four days, with a fkirmifh now and then 
between, the pair have fitted up a commodious neft compofed of 
flicks without, and of fibrous roots and long grafs within. From 
the inftant the female begins to lay, all hoftilities are at an end ; 
not one of the whole grove, that a little before treated her fo rudely, 
will now venture to moleft her ; fo that fhe brings forth her brood 
with patient tranOjiiility. Such is the feverity with which even 
native rooks are treated by each other 5 but if a foreign rook 

Plate xr.n; 


fhould attempt to make himfelf a denizen of their fociety, he 
would meet with no favour; the whole grove would at onct 
be up in arms againft him, and expel him without mercy. 

In fome countries thefe birds are confidered as a benefit, in 
others as a nuifance : their chief food is the worm of the dor-beetle 
and corn; thus they may be faid to do as much fervice by de-> 
ftroying that noxious infect, as they do injury by confuming the 
produce of the hufbandrnan's induftry. 

To this tribe of the crow-kind, fome foreign forts might be 
added : I will take notice only of one, which from the extraordi- 
nary fize and fafhion of its bill muft not be paffed in filence. 
This is the Calao, or horned Indian raven, which exceeds the 
common raven in fize, and habits of depredation. But what he 
differs in from all other birds is the beak, which, by its length 
and curvature at the end, appears defigned for rapine; but then it 
has a kind of horn ftanding out from the top, which looks fome- 
what like a fecond bill, and gives this bird, otherwife fierce and 
ugly, a very formidable appearance. The horn fprings out of the 
forehead, and grows to the upper part of the bill, being of great 
bulk ; fo that near the forehead it is four inches broad, not unlike 
the horn of the rhinoceros, but more crooked at* the tip. Were 
the body of the bird anfwerable in -fize to the head, the calao 
would exceed in magnitude even the vulture or the ealge. But 
the head and beak are out of all proportion, the body being not 
much larger than that of a hen. Yet even here there are varie- 
ties ; for in fuch of thofe birds as come from different parts of A- 
frica, the body is proportionable to the beak ; in fuch as come from 
the Molucca Iflands, the beak bears no proportion to the body. 
Of what ufe this extraordinary excrefccnce is to tta bird, is not 
eafy to determine; it lives, like others of its kind, upon carrion, 
and ft-ldom has a living enemy to cope with : Nature feems to 
fport in the productions of many animals, as if fhe were willing 
to exhibit inftances as well of variety as ceconorny in their for- 



Of the Magpie and Its Affinities. 

THERE are fiich a variety of birds that may be distri- 
buted under this head, that we muft notexpsft very pre- 
cife ideas of any. To have a ftraight ftrong bill, legs formed for 
hopping, a body about the fize of a magpie, and party coloured 
plumage, are the only marks by which I mufl be contented 
to diftinguifh this numerous fantaftic tribe, that add to the 
beauty, though not to the harmony of our landfcapes. In facl, 
their chattering every where difturbs the melody of the lefler 
warblers ; and their noify courtfhip not a little damps the fong 
of the linnet and the nightingale. 

However, we have very few of this kind in our woods com- 
pared to thofe in the neighbourhood of the line. There they not 
only paint the fcene with the beauty and the variety of their plu- 
mage, but ftun the ear with their vociferation. In thofe luxu- 
riant forefts, the fmging birds are fcarce ever heard; but a hun*. 
dred varieties of the pie, the jay, the roller, the chatterer, and the 
toucan, are continually in motion, and with their illufive 
mockeries difturb or divert the fpeclator, as he happens to be 

The magpie is the chief of this kind with us, and is too well 
known to need a defcription. Indeed, were its other accomplifh- 
mcnts equal to its beauty, few birds could be put in competition. 
Its black, its white, its green and purple, with the rich and gil- 
ded combination of the glofies on its tail, are as fine as any that 
adorn the moft beautiful of the feathered tribe. But it has too 
many of the qualities of a beau, to depreciate thefe natural per- 
fections : vain, reftlefs, loud, and quarrelfome, it is an unwel- 
come intruder every where ; and never miiTes an opportunity, 
when it finds one, of doing mifchief. 

The magpie bears a great refemblance to the butcher-bird in 
its bill, which has a fharp procefs near the end of the upper chap, 


is well as in the fhortnefs of its wings, and the form of the tail, 
each fetth-T fhortening from the middlemofl. But it agrees ftill 
more in its food, living not only upon worms and infers, but 
alfo upon fmall birds when they can be feized. A wounded lark, 
or a young chicken, feparatcd from the hen, are fure plunder; and 
the magpie will even fometirnes fet upon and fhike a blackbird. 

The fame infolence prompts it to teize the largeft animals 
when its infults can be ciiji-cd with fecurity. They often are feen 
perched upon the back of an ox or a fheep, pecking up the infects 
to be found there, chattering and tormenting the poor animal at ths 
fame time, and ftretching out their necks for combat, if the beaft 
turns its head backward to reprehend them. They feek out alfb 
the nefts of birds ; and, if the parent efcapes, the eggs make up 
for the deficiency: the thrum and the black-bird are but too fre- 
quently robbed by this affafiin, and this in feme meafure caufes 
their fcarcity. * 

No food feems to come amifs to this bird ; it (hares with ra- 
vens in their carrion, with rooks in their grain, and with the 
cuckoo in birds' eggs : but it feems pofTefled of a providence fel- 
dom ufual with gluttons ; for when it is fatisfied for the prefent, 
it lays up the remainder of the feaft for another occafion. It 
will even in a tame ftate hide its food when it has done eating, 
rnd after a time, return to the fecret hoard, with renewed appetite 
and vociferation. 

In all its habits it difcovers a degree of inftincT; imufual to othsr 
birds. Its nefl is not lefs remarkable for the manner in which it 
is compofed than for the place the magpie takes to build it in. 
The neft is ufually placed confpicuous enough, either in the mid- 
dle of fome hawthorn bum, or on the top of fome high tree. The 
place, however, is always found difficult of accefs; for the tree 
pitched upon ufually grows in fome thick hedge-row, fenced by 
brambles at the root; or fometimes one of the higher bufhes is 
fixed upon for the purpofe. When the place is thus chofen as in- 
acceflibb as pofiible to men, the next care is to fence the i^ft 
above, fo as to defi-ivi it from all the various enemies of air. 
The kite, the crow, and the fparrow-hawk, are to be guarded 
againft ; as their ncfls have been fometimes plundered by the 

128 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

magpie, fo it is reafonably feared that they will take the ftrft op- 
portunity to retaliate. To prevent this, the magpie's neft is built 
with furprizing labour and ingenuity. 

The body of the neft is compofed of hawthorn branches ; the thorns 
flicking outward, but well united together by their mutual infer-* 
tions. Within it is lined with fibrous roots, wool, and long grafs, and 
then nicely plaftered all round with mud and clay. The body 
of the neft being thus made firm and commodious, the next v/ork 
is to make the canopy, which is to defend it above. This is com-> 
pofed of the fharpeft thorns, wove together in fuch a manner as to 
deny all entrance except at the door, which is juft large enough to 
permit egrefs and regrefs to the owners* In this fortrefs the male 
and female hatch and bring up their brood with fecurity, flickered 
from all attacks but thofe of the climbing fchool-boy, who often 
finds his torn and bloody hands too dear a price for the eggs or the 
young ones. The magpie lays fix or feven eggs, of a pale green 
colour, fpotted with brown. 

This bird, in its domeflic ftate, preferves its natural character 1 
with ftricT: propriety. The fame noify, mifchievous habits attend 
it to the cage that marked it in the woods : and being more cun-* 
ning, fo it is alfo a more docile bird than any other taken into 
keeping. Thofe who are defirous of teaching it to fpeak, have a 
foolifh cuftom of cutting its tongue, which only puts the poor 
animal to pain, without improving its fpeech in the fmalleft de- 
gree. Its fpeaking is fometimes very diftindr , but its founds arc 
too thin and {harp to be an exact imitation of the human voice, 
which the hoarfe raven and parrot can counterfeit more exactly, 

To this tribe we may refer the jay, which is one of the moil 
beautiful of the Britifh birds. The forehead is white, ftreaked 
with black ; the head is covered with very long feathers, which it 
can ere6t into a creft at pleafure ; the whole neck, back, breaft 
and belly, are of a faint purple, dafiied with-grey ; the wings are 
moft beautifully barred with a lovely blue, black and white ; the 
tail is black, and the feet of a pale brown. Like the magpie, it 
feeds upon fruits, will kill fmall birds,, and is extremely docile. 

The chatterer alfo, which is a native of Germany, may bs 
placed in this rank ; and is fomewhat lefs than the former. It is, 

TtiE PIE KIND. tig 

Variegated with a beautiful mixture of colours ; red, afh- 
colour, chefnut and yellow : but what diftinguimes it from all 
other birds, are the horny appendages from the tips of feven of 
the leffer quill feathers, which {land bare of beards, and havs? 
the colour and glofs of the beft red fealing-Wax. 

The roller is not lefs beautiful than any of the former. The 
breaft and belly are blue ; the head green ; and the wings varie- 
gated with blue, black, and white. But it may be diftinguifhed 
from all others by a fort of naked tubercles or warts near the 
eyeSj which ftill further contribute to increafe its beauty* 

To this clafs may be added a numerous lift from all the tro-* 
pical forefts of the eaft and weft ; where the birds are remarkable 
for difcordant voices and brilliant plumage. I will fix only upon 
one, which is the moft fingular of all the feathered creation. 
This is the toucan, a bird of the pie kind, whofe bill is nearly 
as large as the reft of its whole body. 

Of this extraordinary bird there are four or five varieties. I 
will only defcribe the red beaked toucan; and as the figure of 
this bird makes the principal part of its hiftory, I will follow 
Edwards through all the minutiae of its fmgular conformation* 
It is about the fize of, and fhaped like a jackdaw, with a large 
head to fupport its monftrous bill : this bill, from the angles of 
the mouth to its pointj is fix inches and an half; and its breadth, 
in the thickeft part, is a little more than two. Its thicknefs near 
the head, is one inch and a quarter: and it is a little rounded 
along the top of the upper chap, the under fide being round alfo j 
the whole' of the bill extremely flight^ and a little thicker than 
parchment. The upper chap is of a bright yellow, except on 
each fide, which is of a fine fcarlet colour; as is alfo the lower 
chap, except at the bafe, which is purple. Between the head 
and the bill there is a black line of feparation all round the bafe 
of the bill ; in the upper part of which the noftrils are placed, and 
are almoft covered with feathers; which has occafioncd fome 
writers to fay, that the toucan has no noftrils. Round the eyes, 
on each fide of the head, is a fpace of bluifh (kin, void of fea- 
thers, above which the head is black, except a white fpot on 

VOL. Ill, R 


each fide joining to the bafe of the upper chap. The hinder part 
of the neck, the back, wings, tail, belly and thighs, are black, 
The under fide of the head, throat, and the beginning of the 
breaft, are white. Between the white on the bread:, and the 
black on the belly, is a fpace of red feathers, in the form of a 
new moon, with its horns upwards. The legs, feet and claws, 
are of an afh-colour ; and the toes ftand like thofe of a parrot, 
two before, and two behind. 

It is reported, by travellers, that this bird, though furnifhed 
with fo formidable a beak, is harmlefs and gentle, being fo ea-^ 
fily made tame, as to fit and hatch its young in houfes. It feeds 
chiefly upon pepper, which it devours very greedily, gorging 
itfelf in fuch a manner, that it voids it crude and unconco<ted. 
This, however, is no objection to the natives from ufmg it again; 
they even prefer it before that pepper which is frefh gathered 
from the tree : and fsem perfuaded that the ftrength and heat of 
the pepper is qualified by the bird, and that all its noxious quali- 
ties are thus exhaufted. 

Whatever be the truth of this report, nothing is more certain 
than that the toucan lives only upon a vegetable diet; and in a 
domcftic ftate, to which it is frequently brought in the warm 
countries where it is bred, it is feen to prefer fudi food to all 
Other. Pozzo, who bred one tame, afferts, that it leaped up 
and down, wagged the tail, arid cried with a voice refembling 
that of a magpie. It fed upon the fame things that parrcts do ; 
but was moft greedy of grapes, which, being plucked off one 
by one, and thrown into the air, it would moft dexteroufly 
catch before they fell to the ground. Its bill, he adds, was hol- 
low, and upon that account very light, fo that it had but little 
ftrength in fo apparently formidable a weapon; nor could it peck 
or ftrike fmartly therewith. But its tongue feemed to aflift the 
efforts of this unwieldly machine: it was long, thin and flat, 
not unlike one of the feathers on the neck of a dunghill cock ; 
this it moved up and down, and often extended five or fix inches 
from the bill. It was of a flefh colour, arid very remarkably 
fringed on each fide with very final 1 filaments, exactly refem- 
bling a feather. 


It is probable that this long tongue has greater ftrength than 
the thin hollow beak that contains it. It is likely that the beak 
is only a kind of {heath for this peculiar inftrument, ufed by the 
toucan, not only in making itfelf a neft, but alfo in obtaining 
its provifion. Nothing is more certain, than that this bird builds 
its neft in holes of trees, which have been previoufly fcoopcd out 
for this purpofe: and it is not very likely that fo feeble a bill" 
could be very ferviceable in working upon fuch hard materials. 

Be this as it will, there is no bird fecures its young better 
from external injury than the toucan. It lias not only birds, 
men, and ferpents to guard againft, but a numerous tribe of 
monkies, ftill more prying, mifchievous, and hungry than rJl 
the reft. The toucan, however, fcoops out its neft in the hol- 
low of fome tree, leaving only a hole large enough to go in ani 
out at. There it fits, with its great beak, guarding the en- 
trance : and if the monkey ventures to offer a vifit of curiofity, 
the toucan givei; him fuch a welcome, that he prcfently thinks 
proper to pack off, and is glad to efcape with fafety. 

This bird is only found in the warm climates of South Ame- 
rica, where it is in great requeft, both for the delicacy of its 
fiefh, which is tender and nouriming, and for the beauty of its 
plumage, particularly the feathers of the breaft. The fkin of 
this part the Indians pluck off, and, when dry, glue to their 
cheeks ; and this they confider as an irrefiftible addition to their 


Of the Wood-pecker and its Affinities. 

E come now to the numerous tribe of wood-peckers, 
a clafs eafily diftinguifhable from all others, both fbr 
their peculiar formation, their method of procuring food, and 
their manner of providing a place of fafety for their young. 
Indeed, no other clafs of birds feems more immediately formed 



for the method of life they purfue, being fitted by nature, at 
all points, for the peculiarity of their condition. They live 
chiefly upon the infoSls contained in the body of trees j and 
for this purpofe are furniihed with a ftraight, hard, ftrong, an- 
gular, and lharp bill, made for piercing and boring. They have 
a tongue of a very great length ; round, ending in a fharp, 
ftiff, bony thorn, dentated on each fide, to ftrike ants and infects 
v/hen di (lodged from their cells. The legs are fhort and ftrong, 
for the purpofe of climbing. Their toes ftand two forward, 
and two backward, which is particularly ferviceable in holding 
by branches of trees. They have hard ftiff tails, to lean upon 
whon climbing. They feed only upon infects, and want that 
inteiHne, \vhich anatomifts call the caecum ; a circumftancc pe- 
culiar to this eribe only. 

Of this bird there are many kinds, and many varieties of each 
kind. They form large colonies in the forefts of every part of 
the world. They differ in fize, colour and appearance ; and 
agree only in the marks above-mentioned, or in thofe habits 
which refult from fo peculiar a conformation. Inftead, therefore, 
of defcendjng into a minute discrimination of every fpecies, let 
us take one for a pattern, to which all the reft will be found to 
bear the ftrongeft affinity. Words can but feebly defcribe the 
plumage of a bird ; but it is the province of hiftory to enter into 
a detail of every animal's purfuits and occupations. 

The green wood-fpite or wood-pecker is called the rain-fowl, 
In fome parts of the country ; becaufj, when it makes a greater 
jir-if: than ordinary, it is fuppofed to foretell rain. It is about the 
fize of a jay; the throat, breaft and belly, are of a pale greenifh 
colour ; and the back, neck and covert feathers of the wings, are 
C,n:ef!. But the tongue of this little animal makes its rnoft dif- 
th-ir;ui{hcd cl^r/icleriftic, as it ferves for its fupport and defence. 
As was Did above, the wood- pecker feeds upon infects; and 
particularly on thofj which are lodged in the body of hollow or 
of rotten trees. The tongue is its i:iftrument for killing and pro- 
curing this food ; which cannot be found in great plenty. This 
is round, ending in a ftiff, fharp, bony tip, dentated on both fides, 
jike th e beard of an arrow $ ar*d this it can dart out three or four 



inches from the bill, and draw in again at pleafure. Its prey is 
thus transfixed, drawn into the bill, and fwallowed, and then 
the dart is again launched at frefh game. Nothing has em- 
ployed the attention of the curious in this part of anatomy, more 
than the contrivance by which the tongue of this bird performs 
its functions with fuch great celerity. The tongue is drawn 
back into the bill by the help of two fmall round cartilages, fatten- 
ed into the fore mentioned bony tip, and running along the length 
of the tongue. Thefe cartilages, from the root of the tongue 
take a circuit beyond the ears ; and being reflected backwards to 
the crown of the head, make a large bow. The mufcular, fpongy 
flefh of the tongue, enclofes thefe cartilages, like a flieath; and 
is fo made, that it may be extended or contracted like a worm. 
The cartilages, indeed, have mufcles accompanying them along 
their whole length backwards. But there is ftill another con- 
trivance; for there is a broad mufcle, joining the cartilages to 
the bones of the fkull, which, by contracting or dilating, forces 
the cartilages forward through the tongue, and then forces the 
tongue and all through the bill, to be employed for the animal's 
prefervation, in piercing its prey. 

Such is the inftrument with which this bird is provided ; and 
this the manner in which this inftrument is employed. When 
a wood-pecker, by its natural fagacity, finds out a rotten hollow 
tree, where there are worms, ants' eggs> or infects, it immedi- 
ately prepares for its operations. Refting by its ftrong claw?, 
and leaning on the thick feathers of its tail, it begins to bore with 
its fharp ftrong beak, until it difclofes the whole internal habi- 
tation. Upon this, either through pleafure at the fight of its 
prey, or with a defire to alarm the infect colony, it fends forth a 
loud cry, which throws terror and confufion into the whole in- 
fect: tribe. They creep hither and thither, feeking for fafety ; 
while the bird luxurioufly feafts upon them at leifure, darting its 
tongue with unerring certainty, and devouring the whole brood. 

The wood-pecker, however, docs not confine its depredations 
folely to trees, but fornetimes lights upon the ground to try its 
fortune, at an ant-hill. It is not fo fecure of prey there as in the 
former cafe, although the numbers are much greater. They lie 


generally too deep for the bird to come at them ; and it is obliged 
to make up by ftratagem the defeat of power. The wood-pecker 
firft goes to their hills, which it pecks, in order to call them 
abroad ; it then thrufts out its long red tongue, which being- 
like a worm, and refembling their ufual prey, the ants come out 
to fettle upon, in great numbers ; however, the bird watching 
the propereft opportunity, withdraws its tongue at a jerk, and 
devours the devourers. This fcratagem it continues till it has 


alarmed their fears, or till it is quite fatisfied. 

As the wood-pecker is obliged to make holes in trees to pro- 
cure food, fo is it alfo to make cavities ftill larger to form its 
neft and to lay in. This is performed, as ufual, with the bill ; 
although fome have affirmed that the animal ufes its tongue, as 
a gimblet, to bore with : but this is a miftake ; and thofe that 
are curious, may often hear the noife of the bill making its way 
in large woods and forefts. The wood-pecker choofes, however, 
for this purpofe trees that are decayed, or wood that is foft, as 
beech, elrn and poplar. In thefe, with very little trouble, it can 
make holes as exactly round as a mathematician could with 
compafies. One of thefe holes the bird generally choofes for its 
own ufe, to neftle, and bring up its young in : but as they are 
eafily made, it is delicate in its choice, and often makes twenty 
before one is found fit to give entire fatisfaction. Of thofe which 
it has made and deferted, other birds, not fo good borers, and lefs 
delicate in their choice, take pofTeilion. The jay and the ftarling 
lay their eggs in thefe holes ; and bats are now and then found 
in peaceable pofTeilion. Boys fometimes have thruft in their 
hands with certain hopes of plucking out a bird's egg ; but to 
their great mortification have had their fingers bitten by a bat 
at the bottom. 

The wood-pecker takes no care to line its neft with feathers 
or ftraw ; its eggs are depofited in the hole, without any thing to 
keep them warm, except the heat of the parent's body. Their 
number is generally five or fix; always white, oblong, and of a 
middle fize. When the young are excluded, and before they 
leave the neft, they are adorned with a fcarlet plumage under the 
throat, which adds to their beauty. 


In our climate, this bird is contented v/ith fuch a wainfcot 
habitation as has been defcribed for its young ; but in the warmer 
regions of Guinea and Brafil, they take a very different method 
to prated and hatch their nafcent progeny. A traveller who 
walks into the forefts of thofe countries, among the firft ftrangs 
objects that excite curiofity, is ftruck with the multitude of 
birds' nefts hanging at the extremity of almoft every branch. 
Many other kinds of birds build in this manner ; but the chief 
of them are of the wood-pecker kind: and indeed, there is not, 
in the whole hiftory of nature, a more fiiigular inftance of the 
fagacity of thgfe little animals in protecting themfdves againft 
fuch enemies as they have moft occasion to fear. In cultivated 
countries, a great part of the caution of t|e feathered tribe is to 
hide or defend their nefts from the invafions of man, as he is 
their moft dreaded enemy. But in the depth of thofe remote 
and folitary forefts, where man is but feldom feen, the little bird 
has nothing to apprehend from man. The parent is carelefs how 
much the neft is expofed to general notice ; fatisfied if it be out of 
the reach of thofe rapacious creatures that live by robbery and 
furprize. If the monkey or the make can be guarded againft, the 
bird has no other enemies to fear : for this purpofe, its neft is 
built upon the depending points of the moft outward branches of 
a tall tree, fuch as the banana or the plantane. On one of 
thofe imrnenfe trees, is feen the moft various, and the moft in- 
imical aflemblage of creatures that can be imagined. The 
top is inhabited by monkies of fome particular tribe, that drive 
off all others ; lower down twine about the great trunk numbers 
of the larger fnakes, patiently waiting till fome unwary animal 
comes within the fphere of their activity ; and at the edo;es of 
the tree hang thefe artificial nefts, in great abundance, inhabited 
by birds of the moft delightful plumage. 

The neft is ufually formed in this manner : when the time 
of incubation approaches, they fly bufily about, in queft of a 
kind of mofs, called, by the Englifli inhabitants of thofe coun- 
tries, old man's beard. It is a fibrous fubftance, and not very 
unlike hair, which bears being moulded into any form, and 
fuifers being glued together. This, therefore, the little wood- 



pecker, called by the natives of Brafil the Guiratemga, fiVtf 
glues by fome vifcous fubftance, gathered in the foref to the 
extremeft branch of a tree ; then building downward, and ftill 
adding frem materials to thofe already procured, a neft is formed, 
that depends, like a pouch, from the point of the branch : the 
hole to enter at, is on the fide ; and all the interior parts are 
lined with the finer fibres of the fame fubftance, which compofe 
the whole. 

Such is the general contrivance of thefe hanging nefts ; which 
are made, by fome other birds, with ftill ftiperior art. A little 
bird of the Grofbeak kind, in the Philippine iflands, makes its 
neft in fuch a manner that there is no opening but from the bot- 
tom. At the bottom the bird enters, and goes up through a 
funnel, like a chimney, till it comes to the real door of the neft, 
which lies on one fide, and only opens into this funnel. 

Some birds glue their nefts to the leaf of the banana-tree, 
which makes two fides of their little habitation; while the 
other two are artificially compofed by their own induftry. 
But thefe and all of the kind, are built with the fame precautions 
to guard the young againft the depredations of monkies and fer- 
pents, which abound in every tree. The neft hangs there, be- 
fore the fpoilers, a tempting object, which they can only gaze 
upon, while the bird flies in and out, without danger or molefta- 
tion, from fo formidable a vicinity. 



Of the Bird of Paradife and its Varieties. 

THERE are few birds that have more deceived and puz- 
zled the learned than this. Some have defcribed it as an 
inhabitant of the air, living only upon the dew of heaven, and 
never refting below; others have acquiefced in the latter part 
of its hiftory, but have given it flying infe6ts to feed on. Some 
have aflerted that it was without feet, and others have rank- 
ed it among the birds of prey. 

The great beauty of this bird's plumage, and the deformity of its 
legs, feem to have given rife to moft of thefe erroneous reports. 
The native favages of the Molucca Iflands, of which it is an in- 
habitant, were very little ftudious of natural hiftory ; and, per- 
ceiving the inclination the Europeans had for this beautiful bird, 
carefully cut off its legs before they brought it to market ; thus 
concealing its greateft deformity, they confidered themfelves en- 
titled to rife in their demands when they offered it for fale. One 
deceit led on to another; the buyer finding the bird without legs, 
naturally enquired after them ; and the feller as naturally beo-an 
to aflert that it had none* Thus far the European was impofed 
upon by others ; in all the reft he impofed upon himfelf. Seeino- 
fo beautiful a bird without legs, he concluded that it could live 
only in air, where legs were unneceflary. The extraordinary 
fplendor of its plumage affifted this deception ; and as it had 
heavenly beauty, foit was afferted to have an heavenly refidence. 
From thence its name, and all the falfe reports that have been 
propagated concerning it. 

Error, however, is fhort-lived; and time has difcovered that 
this bird not only has legs, but very large ftrpng ones for its fize. 
Credulity, when undeceived, runs into the oppofite extreme; and 
foon aftx-r this harmlefs bird was branded with the character of 
being rapacious } of deftroying all thofe of fmaller fize, and, frgnj 

VOL. III. 5 


the amazing rapidity of its flight, as qualified peculiarly for ex- 
tenfive rapine. The real hiftory of this pretty animal is at 
prefent tolerably well known ; and it is found to be as harrnlefs 
as it is beautiful. 

There are two kinds of the birds of Paradife ; one about the 
fize of a pigeon, which is the more common; the other not much 
larger than a lark, which has been defcribed more imperfectly. 
They are both fufficiently diftinguiflied from all other birds, not 
only by the fuperior vivacity of their tints, but by the feathers 
of the tail, there being two long flender filaments growing from 
the upper part of the rump; thefe are longer than the bird's body, 
and bearded only at the end. By this mark the bird of paradife 
may be eafily known, but ftill more eafily by its gaudy livery, 
which being fo very brilliant, demands to be minutely defcribed. 

This bird appears to the eye as large as a pigeon, though in 
reality the body is not much greater than that of a thrufh. The 
tail, which is about fix inches, is as long as the body ; the wings 
are large, compared with the bird's other dimenfions. The head, 
the throat, and the neck, are of a pale gold colour. The bafe of 
the bill is furrounded by black feathers, as alfo the fide of the head 
and throat, as foft as velvet, and changeable like thofe on the 
neck of a mallard. The hinder part of the head is of a fhining 
green, mixed with gold. The body and wings are chiefly cover-, 
ed with beautiful brown, purple and gold feathers. The upper- 
moft part of the tail feathers are of a pale yellow, and thofe under 
them white and longer than the former ; for which reafon the 
hinder part of the tail appears to be all white. But what chiefly 
excites curiofity are, the two long naked feathers above-men- 
tioned, which fpring from the upper part of the rump, above the 
tail, and which are ufually about three feet long. Thefe are 
bearded only at the beginning and the end ; the whole fhaft for 
above two feet nine inches being of a deep black, while the fea- 
thered extremity is of a changeable colour, like the mallard's 

This bird, which for beauty exceeds all others of the pie kind, 
is a native of the Molucca Jflands, but found in greateft numbers 


in that of Aro. There, in the delightful and fpicy woods of that 
country, do thefe beautiful creatures fly in large flocks ; fo that 
the groves which produce the richeft fpices produce the fineft birds 
alfo. The inhabitants themfelves are not infenfible of the plea- 
fure thefe afford, and give them the name of God's bird?, as be- 
ing fuperior to all others that he has made. They live in large 
flocks, and at night generally perch upon the fame tree. They 
are called by fome, the fwallows of Ternate, from their rapid 
flight and from their being continually on the wing in purfuit 
of infects, their ufual prey. 

As the country where they are bred has its tempeftuous feafon, 
when rains and thunders continually difturb the atmofphere, 
thefe birds are then but feldom feen. It is thought that they 
then fly to other countries, where their food appears in greater 
abundance ; for, like fwallows, they have their ftated times of 
return. In the beginning of the month of Auguft, they nre feen 
in great numbers flying together ; and, as the inhabitants would 
have us believe, follow their king, who is diftinguifhed from 
the reft by the luftre of his plumage, and that refpect and vene- 
ration which is, paid him. In the evening they perch upon the 
higheir. trees of the forefl, particularly one which bears a red 
berry, upon which they fometimes feed, when other food fails 
them. In what manner they breed, or what may be the number 
of their young, as yet remains for difcovery. 

The natives, who make a trade of killing and felling thefe 
birds to the Europeans, generally conceal themfelves in the trees 
where they refort, and having covered themfelves up from fight 
in a bower made of the branches, they {hoot at the birds with 
reedy arrows ; and, as they affert, if they happen to kill the king;, 
they then have a good chance for killing the greateft part of the 
flock. The chief mark by which they know the king is by the 
ends of the feathers in his tail, which have eyes like thofe of a 
peacock. When they have taken a number of thefe birds, their 
ufual method is to gut them and cut off their legs ; they then 
run a hot iron into the body, which dries up the internal moifture; 
and filling the cavity with falts and fpices, they fell them to the 
Europeans for a perfect trifle* 



The Cuckoo and its Varieties. 

FR O M a bird of which many fables have been reported, we 
pafs to another that has not given lefs fcope to fabulous 
invention. The note of the cuckoo is known to all the world ; 
the hiftory and nature of the bird itfelf ftill remain in great 
obfcurity. That it devours its parent, that it changes its nature 
with the feafon, and becomes a fparrow-hawk, were fables in- 
vented of this bird, and are now fufficiently refuted. But where it 
refides in winter, or how it provides for its fupply during that 
feafon, ftill continues undifcovered. 

This fmgular bird, which is fomewhat lefs than a pigeon, fhap- 
ed like a magpie, and of a greyifh colour, is diftinguifhcd from all 
other birds, by its round prominent noftrils. Having difappeared 
all the winter, it difcovers itfelf in our country early in the fpring 
by its well known call. Its note is heard earlier or later as the 
feafon feems to be more or lefs forward, and the weather more 
or lefs inviting. From the chearful voice of this bird the farmer 
may be inftru&ed in the real advancement of the year. The 
fallibility of human calendars is but too well known ; but from 
this bird's note the hufbandman may be taught when to fow his 
moft ufeful feeds, and do fuch work as depends upon a certain 
temperature of the air. Thefe feathered guides come to us hea- 
veri- taught, and point out the true commencement of the feafon. 

The cuckoo that was filent fometime after its appearance, be- 
gins at firft feebly, and at very diftant intervals, to give its call, 
which, as the fummer advances, improves both in its frequency and 
loudnefs. This is an invitation to courtfhip, and ufed only by 
the male, who fits generally perched upon fome dead tree, or 
bare bough, and repeats his fong, which he lofes as foon as the 
genial feafon is over. His note is pleafant enough though uni- 
form y and, from an aflociation of ideas, feldom occurs to the 


memory without reminding us of the fweets of Cummer. Cuf- 
tom too has affixed a more ludicrous aflbciation to this note; 
which, however, we that are bachelors need be in no pain about. 
This reproach feems to arife from this bird's making ufe of the 
bed or neft of another to depofit its own brood in. 

However this may be, nothing is more certain than that the 
female makes no neft of her own. She repairs for that purpofe 
to the neft of fome other bird, generally the water- wagtail or 
hedge fparrow, and, having devoured the eggs of the owner, lays 
her own in their place. She ufually lays but one, which is 
fpeckled, and of the fize of a blackbird's. This the fond foolifh 
bird hatches with great affiduity, and, when excluded, finds no 
difference in the great ill-looking changeling from her own. To 
fupply this voracious creature, the credulous nurfe toils with 
unufual labour, no way fenfible that (he is feeding up an enemy 
to her race, and one of the moft deftruclive robbers of her future 

. It was once doubted whether thefe birds were carnivorous ; 
but Reaumur was at the pains of breeding up feveral, and found 
that they would not feed upon bread or corn ; but fleih and in- 
fects were their favourite nourifhment. He found it a very dif- 
ficult tafk to teach them to peck ; for he was obliged to feed them 
for a full month, after they were grov/n as big as the mother. 
Infects, however, feemed to be their peculiar food when young ; 
for they devoured flefh by a kind of conftraint, as it was always 
put into their mouths ; but meal-worm infects they flew to, 
and fwallowed of their own accord moft greedily. Indeed, their 
gluttony is not to be wondered at, when we confider the capacity 
of their ftomach, which is enormous, and reaches from the breaft 
bone to the vent. It is partly membranous, partly mufcular, 
and of a prodigious capacity; yet ftill they are not to be fup- 
pofed as birds of prey, for they have neither the ftrength nor the 
courage. On the contrary, they are naturally weak and fearful, 
as appears by their flying from fmall birds which every where 
purfue them. The young birds are brown mixed with black ; 
and in that ftate they have been defcribed by fome authors as 
old ones. 


The cuckoo, when fledged and fitted for flight, follows its 
fuppofed parent but for a little time; its appetites for infect food 
increafmg, as it finds no great chance for a fupply in imitating 
its little conductor, it parts good friends, the ftep-child feldom 
offering any violence to its nurfe. Neverthelefs, all the little 
birds of the grove feem to confider the young cuckoo as an ene- 
my, and revenge the caufe of their kind by repeated infults. 
They purfue it wherever it flies, and oblige it to take melter in 
the thickefl branches of fome neighbouring tree. All the fmaller 
birds form the train of its purfuers ; but the wry-neck, in par- 
ticular, is found the moft active in the chafe: and from thence 
it has been called by many the cuckoo's attendant and provider. 
But it is very far from following with a friendly intention; it 
only purfues as an infulter, or a fpy, to warn all its little com- 
panions of the cuckoo's depredations. 

Such are the manners of this bird while it continues to refide, 
or to be feen amongft us. But early, at the approach of winter, 
it totally difappears, and its pafiage can be traced to no other 
country. Some fuppofe that it lies hid in hollow trees ; and 
others that it pafTes into warmer climates. Which of thefe opi- 
nions is true is very uncertain, as there are no fa6ts related on 
cither, that can be totally relied on. To fupport the opinion 
that they remain torpid during the winter at home, Willoughby 
introduces the following ftory, which he delivers upon the credit 
of another. " The fervants of a gentleman, in the country, hav- 
ing flocked up, in one of their meadows, fome old dry rotten 
willows, thought proper on a certain occafion, to carry them 
home. In heating a ftove, two logs of this timber were put into 
the furnace beneath, and fire applied as ' ufual. But foon, to 
the great furprize of the family, was heard the voice of a cuckoo, 
finging three times from under the ftove. Wondering at fo 
extraordinary a cry in winter time, the fervants drew the wil- 
low logs from the furnace, and in the midft of one of them faw 
fomething move : wherefore, taking an axe, they opened the 
hole, and thrufting in their hands, firft they plucked out nothing 
but feathers ; afterwards they got hold of a living animal ; 
and this was the cuckoo that had waked fo very opportunely 


for its own fafety. It was, indeed," continues our hiftorian, 
brifk and lively, but wholly naked and bare of feathers, and 
without any winter provifion in its hole. This cuckoo the 
boys kept two years afterwards alive in the ftove ; but whe- 
ther it repaid them with a fecond fong, the author of the tale 
has not thought fit to inform us." 

The moil probable opinion on this fubjecl: is, that as quails 
and wood-cocks fhift their habitations in winter, fo alfo does the 
cuckoo ; but to what country it retires, or whether it has been 
ever feen on its journey, are queftions that I am wholly incapable 
of refolving. 

Of this bird there are many kinds in various parts of the world, 
not only differing in their colours but their fize. Briffon makes 
not lefs than twenty-eight forts of them; but what analogy they 
bear to the Englifh cuckoo I will not take upon me to determine. 
He talks of one, particularly of Brafil, as making a moft horri- 
ble noife in the foreft ; which, as it fhould feem, muft be a very 
different note from that by which our bird is diftinguimed at 



Of the Parrot and Its Affinities. 

H E parrot is the beft known among us of all foreign 
birds, as it unites the greateft beauty with the greateft 
docility. Its voice alfo is more like a man's than that of any- 
other ; the raven is too hoarfe, and the jay and magpie too fhrill, 
to refemble the truth ; the parrot's note is of the true pitch, and 
capable of a number of modulations that even Tome of our ora- 
tors might wifh in vain to imitate. 

The eafe with which this bird is taught to fpeak, and the 
great number of words which it is capable of repeating, are no 
lefs furprizing. We are affured, by a grave writer, that or.eof 


thefe was taught to repeat a whole fonnet from Petrarch ; arid 
that I may not be wanting in my inftance, I have feen a parrot, 
belonging to a diftiller, who had fufFered pretty largely in his 
circumftances from an informer who lived oppofite him, very 
ridiculoufly employed. This bird was taught to pronounce the 
ninth commandment, Thou fnalt not bear falfe witnefs againft- 
thy neighbour, with a very clear, loud, articulate voice. The 
bird was generally placed in its cage over againft the informer's 
houfe, and delighted the whole neighbourhood with its perfever- 
ing exhortations. 

Willoughby tells a ftory of a parrot, which is not fo dull as 
thofe ufually brought up when this bird's facility of talking 
happens to be the fubje&. " A parrot belonging to king Henry 
the feventh, who then refided at Weftminfter, in his palace 
by the river Thames, had learned to talk many words from 
the paflengers as they happened to take v/ater. One day, 
fporting on its perch, the poor bird fell into the water, at the 
fame time crying out, as loud as he could, A boat, twenty 
pound for a boat. A waterman, who happened to be near, 
hearing the cry, made to the place where the parrot was float- 
ing, and taking him up, reftored him to the king. As it feems 
the bird was a favourite, the maninfifted that he ought to have 
the reward rather equal to his fervices than his trouble ; and, as 
the parrot had cried twenty pounds, he faid the king was bound 
in honour to grant it. The king at laft agreed to leave it to 
the parrot's own determination, which the bird hearing, cried 
out, Give the knave a groat". 

The parrot, which is fo common as a foreign bird with us, is 
equally fo as an indigenous bird in the climates where it is pro- 
duced. The forefts fwarm with them ; and the rook is not 
better known with us than the parrot in almoft every part of 
the Eaft and Weft Indies. It is in vain that our naturalifts 
have attempted to arrange the various fp-cies of this bird ; new 
varieties daily offer to puzzle the fyftem- maker, or to demon- 
flrate the narrownefs of his catalogues. Linnseus makes the 
number of its varieties amount to forty-ievenj while BrifTon 
doubles the number, and extends his catalogue to ninety-five* 


Perhaps even this lift rrii^ht be increafed, were every accidental 
change of colour to be confidered as conftituting a new fpecies. 
But, in fact, natural hiftory gains little by thefe difcoveries ; and 
as its dominions are extended, it becomes more barren. It is 
aflerted, by fenfible travellers, that the natives of Brafil can 
change the colour of a parrot's plumage by art. If this be true, 
and I am apt to believe the information, they can make new fpe- 
cies at pleafure, and thus cut out endlefs work for our nomen- 
clators at home. 

Thofe who ufually bring thefe birds over are content to make 
three or four diftin6Hons, to which they give names ; and with 
thefe diftinctions I will content myfelf alfo. The large kind, 
which are of the fize of a raven, are called maccaws ; the next 
fize are fimply called parrots ; thofe which are entirely white 
are called lories ; and the lefler fize are called parakeets. The 
difference between even thefe is rather in the fize than in any 
other peculiar conformation, as they are all formed alike, having 
toes, two before and two behind, for climbing and holding ; 
flrong hooked bills for breaking open nuts, and other hard fub- 
ftances, on which they feed ; and loud harfh voices, by which 
they fill their native woods with clamour. . 

But there are further peculiarities in the conformation : and 
firft, their toes are contrived in a fmgular manner, which appears 
when they walk or climb, and when they are eating. For the 
firft purpofe they ftretch two of their toes forward and two back- 
ward ; but when they take their meat, and bring it to their 
mouths with their foot, they dexteroufly and nimbly turn the 
greater hind toe forward, fo as to take a firmer grafp of the nut 
or the fruit they are going to feed on, ftanding all the while upon 
the other leg. Nor even do they prefent their food in the ufual 
manner ; for other animals turn their meat inwards to the mouth j 
but thefe in a feemingly aukward pofition, turn their meat out- 
wards, and thus hold the hardeft nuts, as if in one hand, till with 
their bills they break the (hell, and extract the kernel. 

The bill is fafhioned with ftill greater peculiarities : for the 
upper chap, as well as the lower, are both moveable. In moft 


other birds the upper chap is connecledjja'nd makes but one piec6 
v/ith tho fkull ; but in thef..-, and in one or two fpecies of the fea- 
thered tribe more, the upper chap is connected to the bone of the 
head by a ftrong membrane, placed on each fids, that lifts and de- 
prelFes it at pleafure. By this contrivance they can open th.^ir 
bills th? wider; which is not a little ufcful, as the upper chap 
is fo hooked and fo over hanging, that, if the low^r chap only 
had motion, they could fcarce gape fufncjently to take any thing 
in for their nouriflmient. 

Such are the ufes of the beak and toes when ufcd feparately ; 
but they are often employed both together when the bird is ex- 
ercifed in climbing. AS thefe birds cannot readily hop from 
bough to bough, their L-gs not being adapted for that purpofe, 
they ufe both the beak and the feet ; firft catching hold with the 
beak, as if with a hook, and drawing up the kgs and fattening 
them, then advancing the head and the beak again, and fo put- 
ting forward the body and feet alternately, till they attain the 
height they af^-irc to. 

The tongue of this bird fomewhat refembles that of a man ; 
for 'which reafon, fome pretend that it is fo well qualified to imi- 
tate the human fpeech ; but the organs by which thefe founds 
are articulated lie farther down in the throat, being performed 
by the great motion which the os hyoides has in thefe birds 
above others, 

The parrot, though common enough in Europe, will not, 
however, breed here. The climate is too cold for its warm 
conftitution; and though it bears our winter when arrived at 
maturity, yet it always feems fenfible of its rigour, and lofes 
both its fpirit and appetite during the colder part of the feafon, 
Jt then becomes torpid and inactive, and feems quite changed 
from that buttling loquacious animal which it appeared in its 
native forefts, where it is almoft ever upon the wing. Notwith- 
ftanding, the parrot lives even with us a confiderable time, if it 
be properly attended to ; and, indeed, it mutt be owned, that it 
employs but too great a part of fomfc people's attention. 

The extreme fagacity and -docility of die bird may plead as 
the bcft excufe for thofe who fpend whole hours in teaching their 

7*HE FIE IND. 147 

parrots to fpeak ; and, indeed, the bird, on thofe occafions, feems 
the wifeft animal of the two. It at firft obftinately refifts all in- 
ftrucr.ion ; but feems to be won by perfeverance, makes a few 
attempts to imitate the firft founds ; when it has got one word 
diftinr, all the fucceeding come with greater facility. The bird 
generally learns moft in thofc families where the rnafteror mif- 
trefs have the leaft to do ; and becoms more expert in proportion 
as its inftru&ors are idly affiduous. In going through the towns 
in France fometime fmce, I could not help obfervirtg how much 
plainer their parrots fpoke than ours, and how very diftm&ly 
I underftood their parrots fpeak French, when I could not under- 
ftand our own, though they fpoke my native language. I was 
at firft for afcribing it to the different qualities of the two lan- 
guages, and was for entering into an elaborate difcuflion on the 
vowels and confouants ; but a friend that v/as with me folved 
the difficulty at once, by alluring me that the Frenchwomen 
fcarce did any thing elfe the whole day than fit and inftrucl: their 
feathered pupils ; and that the birds were thus diftm& in their 
lefTons in confequence of continual fchooling. 

The parrots of France are certainly very expert, biit nothing 
to thofe of the Brafils, w)u-r > the education of a parrot is confi- 
dered as a very ferious affair* The hiftory of prince Maurice's 
parrot, given us by mr. Locke, is too well known ta be repeated 
here; but Clufius aflures us, that the parrots of that country 
are the moil fonlible and cunning of all animals not endued witlj 
reafon. The great parrot, called the aicurous, the head of which 
is adorned w.rh yellow, red and viokt, the body green, the ends 
of the wings red } the feathers of the tail long and yellow; this 
bird he arTl-rts, which is Odom brought into Europe, is a prodigy 
of under (land ing. " A certain Brazilian woman, that lived in a 
village two miles diilant from the ifland on which we refided, 
had a parrot of this kmd 4 which was the wonder of the place. 
It feemed endued with fuch underftanding^ as to difcern and 
Comprehend whatever me faid to ik As we fometimes ufed to 
pafs by that woman's houfe, me ufed to call upon us to ftop, 
promifmg, if we gave her a comb, or a looking-glafs, that fn 
would make her parrot fing and dance to en&rtain us. Jf we. 


agreed to her requeft, as foon as me had pronounced fbme 
words to the bird, it began not only to leap and fkip on the 
perch on which it flood, but alfo to talk and to whiftle, and 
imitate the fnoutings and exclamations of the Brafilians when 
they prepare for battle. In brief, when it came into the wo- 
man's head to bid it fmg, it fang; to dance, it danced. But if, 
contrary to our promife, we refufed to give the woman the lit- 
tle prefent agreed on, the parrot feemed to fympathize in her 
refentment, and was filent and immoveable ; neither could we, 
by any means, provoke it to move either foot or tongue." 

This fagacity, which parrots {hew in a domeftic ftate, feems 
alfo natural to them in their native refidence among the woods. 
They live together in flocks, and mutually affift each other 
againft other animals, either by their courage or their notes of 
warning. They generally breed in hollow trees, where they 
make a round hole, and do not line their neft within. If they find 
any part of a tree beginning to rot, from the breaking off a 
branch, or any fuch accident, this they take care to fcoop, and to 
make the hole fufficiently wide and convenient ; but it fome- 
tirries happens that they are content with the hole which a 
wood-pecker has wrought out with greater eafe before them ; 
and in this they prepare to hatch and bring up their young. 

They lay two or three eggs ; and probably the fmaller kind 
may lay more ; for it is a rule that univerfally holds through 
nature, that the fmalleft animals are always the mod prolific ; 
for being, from their natural weaknefs, more fubjecl: to devaf- 
tation, nature finds it neceffary to replenifh the fpecies by fupe- 
rior fecundity. In general, however, the number of their eggs 
is ftintsd to two, like thofe of a pigeon, and they are about the 
fame fize* They are always marked with little fpecks, like 
thofe of a partridge ; and fome travellers allure us, that they are 
always found in the trunks of the talleft, ftraighteft and largeft 
trees. The natives of thefe countries, who have little elfe to do, 
are very afliduous in fpying out the places where the parrot is 
feen to neftle, and generally come with great joy to inform the 
Europeans, if there be any, of the difcovery. As thofe birds have 
always the greatest docility that are taken young, fuch a ueft is 


often confidercd as worth taking fome trouble to be poflefTed of; 
and, for this purpofe, the ufual method of coming at the young is, 
by cutting down the tree. In the fall of the tree it often hap- 
pens that the young parrots are killed ; but if one of them fur- 
vives the mock, it is confidered as a fufficient recompence. 

Such is the avidity with which thefe birds are fought when 
young ; for it is known they always fpeak beft when the ear has 
not been anticipated by the harm notes of the wild ones. But as 
the natives are not able upon all occafions to fupply the demand 
for young ones, they are contented to take the old ; and for that 
purpofe moot them, in the woods, with heavy arrows, headed 
with cotton, which knocks down the bird without killing it. 
The parrots thus ftunned are carried home : fome die, but others 
recover, and, by kind ufage and plentiful food, become talkative 
and noify. 

But it is not for the fake of their converfation alone that die 
parrot is fought after among the favages ; for though fome of 
them are but tough and ill-tafted, yet there are other forts, par- 
ticularly of the fmall parakeet tribe, that are very delicate food. 
In general it obtains, that whatever fruit or grain thefe birds 
moftly feed upon, their flefh partakes of the flavour, and becomes 
good or ill-tafted, according to the quality of their particular 
diet. When the guava is ripe, they are at that feafon fat and 
tender ; if they feed upon the feed of the acajou, their flefh con- 
tracts an agreeable flavour of garlick; if they feed upon the feed 
of the fpicy trees, their flefh then taftes of cloves and cinnamon; 
while, on the contrary, it is infupportably bitter if the berries they 
feed on are of that quality. The feed of the cotton tree intoxi- 
cates them in the fame manner as wine does man ; and even 
wine itfelf is drank by parrots, as Ariftotle arTures us, by which 
they are thus rendered more talkative and amufing. But of all 
food, they are fohdett of the carthamus, or baftard faffron ; which, 
though ftrorigly purgative to man, agrees perfectly with their 
conftitution, and fattens them in a very fhort time. 

Of the parakeet kind in Brafil, Labat afTures us, that they 
are the moft beautiful in their plumage, and the moll talkative 


birds in nature. They are very tame, and appear fond of man- 
kind j they feem pleafed with holding parley with him; they 
never have done; but while he continues to talk, anfwer him, 
?.nd appear refolved to have the laft word: but they are pofTefted 
of another quality which is fufficient to put an end to this afTo^- 
ciation : their flefli is the moil delicate imaginable, and highly 
efteemed by thofe who are fonder of indulging their appetites 
than their ears. The fowler walks into the woods, where they 
keep in abundance; but as they are green and exactly the colour 
of the leaves among which they fit, he only hears their prattle, 
without being able to fee a fmgle bird ; he looks round him, fcn- 
fible that his game is within gun-fhot in abundance, but is mor- 
tified to the laft degree that it is impoflible to fee them. Unfor- 
tunately for thefe little animals, they are reftlefs and ever on the 
wing, fo tbat in flying from one tree to another, he has but too 
frequent opportunities of deftroying them ; for as foon as they 
have ftiipped the tree on which they fit of all its berries, fome 
one of them flies off to another ; arid, if tbat be found fit for the 
purpofe, it gives a loud call, which all the reft refort to, That 
is the opportunity the fowler has long been waiting for ; he fires 
in among the flock while they are yet on the wing ; and he fel~ 
dom fails of bringing down a part of them. But it is fingular 
enough to fee them when they fee their companions fallen : They 
fet up a loud outcry, as if they were chiding their deftroyer, and 
do not ceafe till they fee him preparing for a fecond charge* 

But, though there are fo many motives for deftroying thefe 
beautiful birds, they are in very great plenty; and in fome 
countries on the coaft of Guinea, they are confidered by the 
Negroes as their greateft tormentors. The flocks of parrots 
perfecute them with their unceafing fcreaming ; and devour 
whatever fruits they attempt to produce by art in their little 
gardens. In other places they are not fo deftru&ive, but fuffi^ 
ciently common ; and, indeed, there is fcarce a country of the 
tropical climates that has not many of the common kinds as 
well as fome peculiarly its own. Travellers have counted more 
than an hundred different kinds on the continent of Africa only ; 
there is one country in particular, north of the Cape of Good 


Hope, which takes its name from the multitude of parrots which 
are feen in its woods. There are white parrots feen in the burn- 
ing regions of Ethiopia ; in the Eaft-Indies, they are docile and 
talkative: in all the iflands of the Pacific Sea and the Indian 
Ocean, they fwarm in great variety and abundance, and add to 
the fplendor of thofe woods which nature has drefTed in eternal 

So generally are thefe birds known at prefent, and fo great is 
their variety, that nothing feems more extraordinary than that 
there was but one fort of them known among the ancients, and 
that at a time when they pretended to be matters of the world, 
If nothing elfe could ferve to (hew the vanity of a Roman's 
boaft, the parrot tribe might be an inftance, of which there are 
an hundred kinds now known, not one of which breeds in the 
countries that acknowledged the Roman power. The green pa- 
rakeet, with a red neck, was the firft of this kind that was 
brought into Europe, and the only one that was known to the 
ancients, from the time of Alexander the great to the age of 
Nero. This was brought from India ; and when afterwards 
the Romans began to feek through all their dominions, for new 
and unheard-of luxuries, they at laft found out others in Ga- 
ganda, an ifland of Ethiopia, which they confjderedas an extra- 
ordinary difcovery. 

Parrots have ufually the fame diforders with other birds ; and 
they have one or two peculiar to their kind. They are fome- 
titnes ftruck by a kind of apoplectic blow, by which they fall 
from their perches, and for a while feem ready to expire. The 
other is the growing of the beak, which becomes fo very much 
hooked as to deprive them of the power of eating. Thefe infir- 
mities, however, do not hinder them from being long lived ; for 
.a parrot well kept will live five or fix and twenty years. 



The Pigeon and its Varieties. 

THI S is one of the birds, which, from its great fecundity, 
we have, in fome meafure, reclaimed from a ftate of na- 
ture, and taught to live in habits of dependance. Indeed, its fe- 
cundity feems to be increafed by human cultivation, fmce thofe 
pigeons that live in a wild ftate, in the woods, are by no means 
fo fruitful as thofe in our pigeon-houfes nearer home. The 
power of increafe in moft birds depends upon the quantity of 
their food ; and it is feen, in more than one inftance, that man, 
by fupplying food in plenty, and allowing the animal at the 
fame time a proper mare of freedom, has brought fome of thofe 
kinds which are known to lay but once a year, to become much 
more prolific. 

The tame pigeon, and all its beautiful varieties, derive their 
origin from one fpecies, the ftock dove only ; the Engiifh name, 
implying its being the ftock or ftem from whence the other do- 
meftic kinds have been propagated. This bird, in its natural 
ftate, is of a deep bluifh am colour ; the breaft darned with a 
fine changeable green and purple ; its v/ings marked with two 
black bars ; the back white, and the tail barred near the end 
with black. Thefe are the colours of the pigeon in a ftate of 
nature ; and from thefe fimple tints has man by art propagated 
a variety that words cannot defcribe, nor even fancy fuggeft. 
However, nature ftill perfeveres in her great out-line; and 
though the form, colour, and even the fecundity of thefe birds 
may be altered by art, yet their natural manners and inclinations 
continue ftill the fame. 

The ftock-dove, in its native woods, differs from the ring- 
dove, a bird that has never been reclaimed, by its breeding in 
the holes of rocks and the hollows of trees! All other birds of 
the pigeon-kind build like rooks, in the topmoft branches of the 


fbreft, and choofe their habitation as remote as poffible from man. 
But this fpecies foon takes to build in artificial cavities ; and, 
from the temptation of a ready provifion and numerous fociety, 
eafily fubmits to the tyranny of man. Still, however, it pre- 
ferves its native colour for feveral generations, and becomes 
more variegated only in proportion as it removes from the ori- 
ginal fimplicity of its colouring in the woods. 

The dove-houfe pigeon, as is well known, breeds every 
month j but then it is neceflary to fupply it with food when the 
weather is (Were, or the fields are covered with faow. Upon 
other occafions it may be left to provide for itfelf ; and it gene- 
rally repays the owner for its protection. The pigeon lays two 
white es;gs, which moft ufually produce young ones of different 
fexes. For the laying of each egg, it is neceflary to have a par- 
ticular congrefs with the male; and the egg. is ufually deposited 
in the afternoon. When the eggs are thus laid, the female in 
the fpace of fifteen days, not including the three days during 
which me is employed in laying, continues to hatch, relieved at 
intervals by the male. The turns are ufually regulated with 
great exactnefs. From three or four o'clock in the evening till 
nine the next day, the female continues to fit; fhe is then reliev- 
ed by the male, who takes his place from ten till three, while his 
mate is feeding abroad. In this manner they fit alternately till 
the young are excluded. If, during this term, the female delays 
to return at the expected time, the male follows, and drives her 
to the neft ; and, Ihould he in his turn be dilatory, fhe retaliates 
with equal feverity. 

The young ones, when hatched, require no food for the three 
firft days, only wanting to be kept warm, which is an employ- 
ment the female takes entirely upon herfelf. During this period, 
file never fHrs out, except for a few minutes to take a little food. 
From this they are fed for eight or ten days, with corn or grain 
of different kinds, which the old ones gather in the fields, and 
keep trcafured up in their crops, from whence they throw it up 
again into the mouths of their young ones, who very greedily 
demand it. 



As this method of feeding the young from the crop is different 
in birds of the pigeon-kind from all others, it demands a more 
detailed explanation. Of all birds, for its fize, the pigeon has 
the largeft crop, which is alfo made in a manner quite peculiar 
to the kind. In two of theic that were diffe&ed by a member of 
the royal academy of fciences, it was found that if the anato- 
mift blew air into the wind-pipe, it difrended the crop or gullet 
to a prodigious fize. This was the more extraordinary, as there 
fsemed to be no communication whatever between thefe two 
receptacles, as the conduit by which we breathe, as every one 
knows, leads to a very different receptacle, from that where we 
put our food. By what appertures the air blown into the lungs 
of the pigeon makes its way into the crop, is unknown ; but 
nothing is more certain than that thefe birds have a power of fil- 
ling the crop with air; and fome of them, which are called 
croppers, diftend it in fuch a manner, that the bird's breaft feems 
bigger than its body. The peculiar mechanifm of this part is 
not well known ; but the neceffity for it in thefe animals is pret- 
ty obvious. The pigeon, as we all know, lives entirely upon 
grain and water ; thefe are mixed together in the crop ; and in 
the ordinary way are digefted in proportion as the bird lays in 
its provifion. But to feed its young, which are very voracious, 
it is neceffary to lay in a ftore greater than ordinary, and to give 
the food a kind of half maceration to fuit their tender appetites. 
The heat of the bird's body, affifted by air and numerous glands 
feparating a milky fluid, are the moft neceffary inftruments for 
this operation ; but, in proportion as the food macerates, it be- 
gins to fwell alfo, and the crop muft of confequence be confider- 
ably dilated. Still, however, the air which is contained in it 
gives the bird a power of contracting it at pleafure; for if it 
were filled with more folid fubftances, the bird could have no 
power to comprefs it. But this is not the cafe ; the bird can com- 
prefs its crop at pleafure ; and driving out the air, can thus drive 
out the food alfo, which is forced up the gullet like a pellet from 
a pop-gun. The young ones open-mouthed receive this tribute of 
affection, and are thus fed three times a day. In feeding, the male 
ufually fupplies the young female; while the old female fupplies 
the young of the oppofite, fex. The food with which they are fup- 


plied is more macerated in the beginning ; but as they grow older, 
the parentsgive it lefs preparation, and at laft drive them out to 
fhift for themfelves. When well fed, however, the old ones do not 
wait for the total difmiflion of their young; but, in the fame neft, 
are to be found young ones almoft fit for flight, and eggs hatch- 
ing, at the fame time. 

The fidelity of the turtle-dove is proverbial, and makes the 
ufual comparifon of fuch poets as are content to repeat what 
others have faid before them ; but the pigeon of the dove-houfe is 
not fo faithful, and, having been fubje&ed to man, it puts on li- 
centioufnefs among its other domeftic habits. Two males are 
often feen quarrelling for the fame miftrefs ; and when the female 
admits the addrefies of a new gallant, her old companion feems 
to bear the contempt with fome marks of difpleafure, abftains 
from her company, or, if he approaches, it is only to chaftife her. 
There have been inftances when two males, being difpleafed with 
their refpe&ive mates, have thought proper to make an ex- 
change, and have lived in great harmony with their new com- 

So great is the produce of this bird in its domeftic ilate, that 
near fifteen thoufarid may in the fpace of four years be produced 
from a fingle pair. But the ftock-dove feldom breeds above twice 
a year ; for when the winter months come, the whole employ- 
ment of the fond couple is rather for felf-prefervation, than tranf- 
mitting a pofterity. They feem, however, to have a ftronger 
attachment to their young than thofe who are found to breed fo 
often; whether it be that inftindt a&s more powerfully upon 
them in their flate of nature, or that their affections are lefs di- 
vided by the multiplicity of claims. 

It is from a fpecies of thefe, therefore, that thofe pigeons which 
are called carriers, and are ufed to convey letters, are produced. 
Thefe are eafily diftinguifhed from all others by their eyes, 
which are compaiTed about with a broad circle of naked white 
fkin, and by being of a dark blue or blackiih colour. It is from 
their attachment to their native place, and particularly where 
they have brought up their youri^, that thefe birds are employed 


in feveral countries as the moil expeditious carriers. They are 
firfl brought from the place were they were bred, and whither it is 
intended to fend them back with information. The letter is tied 
under the bird's wing, and it is then let loofe to return. The 
little animal no fooner finds itfelfat liberty, than its pafiion for 
its native fpot directs all its motions. It is feen upon thefc oc- 
cafions, flying directly into the clouds to an amazing height ; 
and then, with the greateft certainty and exaclnefs, directing 
itfelf by fome furprizing inftinft towards home, which lies fome- 
times at many miles diftancc, bringing its meflage to thofe to 
whom it is directed. By what marks they difcover the place, 
by what chart they are guided in the right way, is to us utterly 
unknown ; certain it is, that in the fpace of an hour and an half 
they perform a journey of forty miles ; which is a degree of dif- 
patch three times greater than the fleeteft quadruped can perform. 
Thefe birds are not brought up at prefent with as much care as 
formerly, when they were fent from governors in a befieged city 
to generals that were coming to relieve it without, when they 
v/ere fent from princes to their fubje&s with the tidings of fome 
fortunate event, or from lovers to their miftreffes with expref- 
fions of their paffion. The only ufe we now fee made of them is 
to be let fiy at Tyburn, when the cart is drawn away; pretty 
much as when fome ancient hero was to be interred, an eagle 
was fent off from the funeral pile, to complete his apotheofis. 

The varieties of the tame pigeon are fo numerous, that it 
would be a vain attempt to mention them: fo much is the 
figure and the colour of this bird under human controul, that 
pigeon-fanciers, by coupling a male and female of different forts, 
can breed them as they exprefs it, to a feather. From hence we 
have the various names of croppers, carriers, jacobines, powters, 
runts and turbits: all birds that at firft might have accidentally 
varied from the ftock-dove ; and then, by having thefe varieties 
ilill heightened by food, climate, and paring, different fpecies have 
J>een produced. But there are many fpecies of the wild pigeon 
which, though bearing a ftrong affinity to the ftock-dove, are, 
peverthelefs* fufncientJy different from it to deferve a diftincl: 
defcriptfo?*. The ring-dove is of this number ; a good deal 


larger than the former, and building its neft, with a few dry 
flicks, in the boughs of trees. This feems a bird much fonder 
of its native freedom than the former ; and attempts have been 
frequently made to render it domeflic: but they have hi- 
therto proved fruitlefs; for, though their eggs have been hatched 
by the tame pigeon in a dove-houfe, yet, as foon as they could 
fly, they always betook themfelves to the woods where they were 
firft produced. In the beginning of winter, thefe aflemble in 
great flocks in the woods, and leave off cooing; nor do they re- 
fume this note of courtfhip till the beginning of March, when the 
genial feafon, by fupplying them with food, renews their defires. 

The turtle-dove is a fmaller, but a much fhyer bird than 
any of the former. It may eafily be diftinguifhed from the reft 
by the iris of the eye, which is of a fine yellow, and by a beau- 
tiful crimfon circle that encompafTes the eye-lids. The fidelity 
of thefe birds is noted ; and a pair being put in a cage, if one 
dies, the other will not furvive it. The turtle-dove is a bird of 
pafTage, and few or none remain in our northern climates in win- 
ter. They fly in flocks when they come to breed here in fum- 
mer, and delight in open, mountainous, fandy countries. But 
they build their nefts in the midft of woods, and choofe the moft 
retired fituations for incubation. They feed upon all forts of 
grain, but are fondeft of millet-feed. 

To this fhort lift might be added a long catalogue of foreign 
pigeons, of which we know little more than the plumage and the 
names : indeed, the variety of their plumage is as beautiful as 
the names by which they are known, are harfh and difibnant. 
The ocotzimtzcan, for inftance, is one of the moft fplendid te- 
nants of the Mexican forefts ; but few, I believe, would defire 
to learn the name, only to be informed that it is covered with 
purple, green, and yellow plumage. To defcribe fuch birds, 
the hiflorian's pen is not half fuch an ufeful implement as the 
painter's pencil. 




Of Birds of the Sparrow Kind in General. 

STILL defcending from the larger to the fmaller, we come 
to birds of the fparrow kind ; or that clafs of beautiful little 
animals, that, being lefs than the pigeon, go on diminifhing till 
we arrive at the humming -bird> the fmalleft of the feathered cre- 

The birds which compofe this clafs, chiefly live in the neigh- 
bourhood of man, and are his greateft favourites. The falcon 
may be more efteemed, and the turkey more ufeful; but thefe 
he confiders as fervants, not as friends; as animals reclaimed 
merely to fupply him with fome of the conveniences of life : but 
thefe little painted fongfters have his affe&ions, as well from 
their beauty as their melody ; it is this delightful clafs that fill 
his groves with harmony, and lift his heart to fympathize with 
their raptures. All the other clafTes are either mute or fcreaming ; 
it is this diminutive tribe only that have voices equal to the 
beauty of their figures ; equally adapted to rejoice man, and de- 
light each other. 

As they are the favourites of man, fo they are chiefly feen 
near him. All the great birds dread his vicinity, and keep to 
the thickeft darknefs of the foreft, or the brow of the moft craggy 
precipice: but thefe feldom refort to the thicker parts of the 
wood; they keep near its edges, in the neighbourhood of culti- 
vated fields ; in the hedge-rows of farm-grounds ; and even in 
the yard, mixing with the poultry. 


It muft be owned, indeed, that their living near man is not a 
fociety of afre&ion on their part, as they approach inhabited 
grounds merely becaufe their chief provifion is to be found thsre. 
In the depth of the defart, or the gloom of the foreft, there is no 
grain to be picked up ; none of thofe tender buds that are fo 
grateful to their appetites ; infe&s, themfelves, that make fo 
great a part of their food, are not found there in abundance ; 
their natures being unfuited to the moifture of the place. As 
we enter, therefore, deeper into uncultivated woods, the filence 
becomes more profound ; every thing carries the look of awful 
ftillnefs ; there are none of thofe warblings, none of thofe mur- 
murs that awaken attention, as near the habitations of men ; 
there is nothing of that confufed buz, formed by the united 
though diftant voices of quadrupeds and birds ; but all is pro- 
foundly dead and folemn. Now and then, indeed, the traveller 
may be rouzed from this lethargy of life, by the voice of an 
heron, or the fcream of an eagle ; but his fweet little friends and 
warblers have totally forfaken him. 

There is ftill another reafon for thefe little birds avoiding the 
depths of the foreft ; which is, that their moft formidable enemies 
nfually refide there. The greater birds, like robbers, choofe the 
moft dreary folitudes for their retreats ; and, if they do not find y 
they make, a defart all around them. The fmall birds fly from 
their tyranny, and take protection in the vicinity of man, where 
they know their more unmerciful foes will not venture to purfue 

All birds, even thofe of pafTage, feem content with a certain 
diftricl: to provide food and centre in. The red-breaft or the wren 
feldom leaves the field where it has been brought up, or where its 
young have been excluded; even though hunted, it flies along 
the hedge, and feems fond of the place with an imprudent perfe- 
vcrance. The fa<5r. is, all thefe fmall birds mark out a territory 
to themfelves, which they will permit none of their own fpecies 
to remain inj they guard their dominions with the moft watch- 
ful refentrnent ; and we fbldom find two male tenants in the fame 
hedge together. 


Thus, though fitted by nature for the moil wandering life* 
thefe little animals do not make fuch diflant excurfions, during 
the feafon of their ftay, as the flag or the leveret. Food feems 
to be the only object that puts them in motion, and when that is 
provided for them in fufficient plenty, they never wander. But as 
that is feldom permanent through the year, almoft every bird is 
then obliged to change its abode. Some are called birds of paf- 
fage, becaufe they are obliged to take long journies for this pur- 
pofe ; but, frrictly fpeakirig, almoft every other kind are birds of 
pafiage, though their migration may not be to places fo remote. 
At fome particular feafon of the year, all fmall birds migrate 
either from one county to another, or from the more inland pro- 
vinces towards the fhore. 

There are feveral perfons who get a livelihood by watching 
the feafons when our fmall birds begin to migrate from one coun- 
ty to another, and by taking them with nets in their paflage. 
The birds are found to fly, as the bird-catchers term it, chiefly 
during the month of October, and part of September and No- 
vember. There is alfo another flight in March, which is much 
lefs confiderable than that in autumn. Nor is it lefs remark- 
able, that feveral of thefe fpecies of flight-birds make their ap- 
pearance in regular fucceflion. The pippet, for inftance, begins 
its flight every year about Michaelmas, when they are caught in 
the greateft number. To this the wood-lark fucceeds, and con- 
tinues its flight till towards the middle of October ; other birds 
follow, but are not fo punctually periodical; the green-finch 
does not begin till the frorr. obliges it to feek for a change. Thefe 
birds, during thofe months, fly from day-break till twelve at 
noon ; and there is afterwards a fmall flight from two till night. 
Such are the feafons of the migration of the birds, which have 
been ufually confidered as ftationary, and on thefe occafions they 
are caught in great abundance, as they are on their journey. But 
the fame arts ufed to allure them upon other occafions, would be 
utterly fruitlefs, as they avoid the nets with the mod prudent 
circumfpection. The autumnal flight probably confifts of the 
parents conducting their new-fledged young to thofe places 
where there is fufficient provifion, and a proper temperament of 


the air during the winter feafon ; and their return in fpring is ob-* 
vioufly from an attachment to the place which was found fo con^ 
venient before for the purpofcs of neftling and incubation. 

Autumn is the principal feafon when the bird-catcher em- 
ploys his art to catch thefe wanderers. His nets are a moft in- 
genious piece of mechanifm, being generally twelve yards and a 
half long, and two yards and a half wide, and fo contrived as 
from a flat pofition to rife on each fide, and clap over the birds 
that are decoyed to come between them. The birds in their paf- 
fage are always obferved to fly againft the wind; hence there is 
a great contention among the bird-catchers which ftiall gain the 
wind ; for example, if it is wefterly, the bird-catcher who lays 
his nets moft to the eaft, is fure of the moft plentiful fport if his 
call-birds are good. For this purpofe, he generally carries five 
or fix linnets, two gold-finches, two green-finches, one wood- 
lark, one red-poll, and perhaps a bull-finch, a yellow-hammer, 
a tit-lark, and an aberdavine : thefe are placed at fmall diftances 

from the nets in little cao-es. He has befides what he calls his 

flap-birds, which are placed upon a moveable perch, which the 
bird-catcher can raife at pleafure by means of a firing ; and thefe 
he always lifts gently up and down as the wild bird approaches. 
But this is not enough to allure the wild bird down; it muft be 
called by one of the call -birds in the cages ; and thefe, by being- 
made to moult prematurely in a warm cag?, call louder and bet- 
ter than thofe that are wild and at freedom. There even appears 
a malicious joy in thefe call-birds to bring the wild ones into the 
fame ftate of captivity, while at the fame time their call is louder 
and their plumage brighter than in a ftate of nature. Nor is 
their fight or hearing lefs exquifite, far .^xee.dmg that of the 
bird-catcher; for the inftant the wild birfis are perceived, notice 
is given by one to the reft of the call-birds, who all unite in the 
fame tumultuous ecftacy. of pleafure. THe call-birds do ruf- 
fing upon thofe occafions as a bird does in a chamber, but incics 
the wild ones by ihort jerks, which, when the birds are goo.], may 
be heard at a great difbnce. The allurement of this call is ib 
great, that the wild bird hearing it is flopped in its moft rapid 
flight ; and, if not already acquainted with ths nets, lights boldly 


within twenty yards perhaps of the bird-catcher, and on a fpot 
which it would other wife have quite difregarded. This is the 
opportunity wiflhed for, and the bird-catcher pulling a ftring, the 
nets 'on each fide rife in an inftant, and clap directly down on the 
poor little tinfufpe&ing vifitant. Nay, it frequently happens, 
that if half a flock only are caught, the remaining half will im- 
mediately afterwards light between the nets, and fliare the fate 
of their companions. Should only one bird efcape, this unhappy 
furvivor will alfo venture into danger till it is caught 5 fuch a 
fafcinating power have the call-birds. 

Indeed, it is not eafy to account for the nature of this call, 
whether it be a challenge to combat, an invitation to food, or a 
prelude to courtmip. As the call-birds are all males , and as the 
wild birds that attend to their voice are moft frequently males 
alfo, It does not feem that love can have any influence in their 
afliduity. Perhaps the wild females, in thofe flights, attend to 
and obey the call below, and their male companions of the flight 
come down to bear them company. If this be the cafe, and that 
the females have unfaithfully led their mates into the nets, they 
are the firft that are punifhed for their infidelity; the males are 
only made captives for finging ; while the females are indifcrimi- 
nately killed, and fold to be ferved up to the tables of the deli- 

Whatever be the motives that thus arrelr. a flock of birds in 
their flight, whether they be of gallantry or of war, it is certain 
that the fmall birds are equally remarkable for both. It is, per- 
haps, the genial defire that inspires the courage of moft animals ; 
and that being the greateft in the males, gives them a greater de- 
gree of valour than the females. Small birds, being extremely 
amorous, are remarkably brave. However contemptible thefe 
little warriors are to larger creatures, they are often but too for- 
midable to each other ; and fometimes fight till one of them 
yields up his life with the victory. But their contentions are 
ibmetimes of a gentler nature. Two male birds fhall ftrive in 
fong, till, after a long druggie, the loudefl fhall entirely filence 
the other* During thefe contentions, the female fits an attentive 


fileftt auditor, and often rewards the loudeft fongfter with her 
company during the feafon. 

Singing among birds is almoft univerfally the prerogative of 
the male. With them it is the reverfe of what occurs in the hu- 
man kind. Among the feathered tribe, the heavieft cares of life 
fall to the lot of the female. Hers is the fatigue of incubation, 
and to her devolves ths principal fatigue of nurfmg the helplefs 
brood. To alleviate thefe fatigues, and to fupport her under 
them, Nature has given the fong to the male. This ferves as a 
note of blandifhment at firft to attract her affections ; it ferves 
as a note to delight her during the time of her incubation; but 
it ferves ftill farther as a note of fecurity, to allure her that no 
danger threatens to moleft her. The male, while his mate is 
hatching, fits upon fome neighbouring tree, continuing at once 
to watch and to fmg. While his voice is heard, the female refts 
in confident fecurity; and, as the poet exprefTes it, appears mojl 
blejfid when moft unfeen : But if any appearance of danger offers 
to intrude, the male, that a moment before was fo loud and fpor- 
tive, flops all of a fudden; and this is a moft certain fignal to 
his mate to provide for her own fecurity. 

The neft of little birds feems to be of a more delicate con- 
trivance than that of the larger kinds. As the volume of their 
bodies is fmaller, the materials of which their nefts are compofed 
are generally warmer. It is eafy to conceive that fmall things 
keep heat a morter time than thofe that are large. The eggs, 
therefore, of fmall birds, require a place of more conftant warmth 
than thofe of great ones, as being liable to cool more quickly ; 
and accordingly their nefts are built warmer and deeper, lined 
on the infide with fofter fubftances, anH guarded above with a 
better covering. But it fometimes nappens that the little 
architects are difturbed in their operations, and then they are 
obliged to make a neft, not fuch as they wi(h, but fuch as they 
can. The bird, whofe neft has been robbed feveral times, builds 
up her laft in a very flovenly manner, confcious that, from the 
near approach of winter, me muft not take time to give her ha~ 
bitation every poflible advantage it is capable of receiving, 


When the neft is finimed, nothing can exceed the cunning which 
the male and female employ to conceal it. If it is built in 
bufhes, the pliant branches are fo difpofed as to hide it entirely 
from die view; if it be built among mofs, nothing outwardly 
appears to (hew that there is an habitation within. It is always 
built near thofe places where food is found in greateft abund- 
ance ; and they take care never to go in or out while there is 
any one in fight. The greater birds continue from their neft for 
fome time, as their eggs take no damage in their ab fence; but 
the little birds are affiduous while they fit, and the neft is always 
occupied by the male when the female is obliged to feek for fufte-r 

The firft food of all birds of the fparrow kind is worms and in- 
fects. Even the fparrow and the goldfinch, that when adult 
feed only upon grain, have both been fed upon infects while in 
the neft. The young ones, for fome time after their exclufion 
from the fhcll, require no food ; but the parent foon finds by 
their chirping and gaping, that they begin to feel the approaches 
cf hunger, and flies to provide them a plentiful fupply, In her 
abfence, they continue to lie clofe together, and cherifli each other 
by their mutual warmth. During this interval alfo, they pre- 
ferve a perfect filence, uttering not the flighteft note till the pa- 
rent returns. Her arrival is always announced by a chirrup, 
which they perfectly underftand, and which they anfwer all toge- 
ther, each petitioning for its portion. The parent diftributes a 
fupply to each by turns, cautioufly avoiding to gorge them, but 
to 'ive them often though little at a time. The wren will in 
this manner feed feventeen or eighteen young ones, without paf- 
fmg over one of them, 

Such is the manner in which thef^ birds bring forth and hatch 
their young ; but it yet remains to ufher them from the neft into 
life, and this they very ailiduoufly perform. When they are fully 
fledged, and fitted for fhort flights, the old ones, if the weather 
be fair, lead them a few yards from the neft, and then compel 
them to return, For two or three fucceeding days they are led 
out in the fame manner, but each day to feck more diftant adven- 
tures. When it is perceived that they can fly, and fhift for them. 


ielves, then the parents forfake them for ever, ancl pay them no 
more attention than they do to other birds in the fame flock. In- 
deed, it would feem among thefe little animals, that, from the 
moment their young are fet out, all future connexion ceafes be- 
tween the male and female ; they go feparate ways, each to 
provide for itfclf, during the rigours of winter ; and, at the ap- 
proach of fpring, each feeks for a new aflbciate. 

In general, birds, when they come to pair in fpring, affociate 
with thofe of their own age and place of abode. Their ftrength 
or courage is generally in proportion to their age ; the oldeft fe- 
males firft feel the acceffes of defire, and the oldeft males are the 
boldeft to drive off all younger pretenders. Thofe next in cou- 
rage and defire, become pretenders, till they are almoft all pro- 
vided in turn. The youngeft come laft ; as, in fa 61, they are 
the lateft in their inclinations. Butftill there are feveral, both 
males and females, that remain unprovided for j either not hap- 
pening to meet with each other, or at leaft not during the genial 
interval. Whether thefe mix with fmall birds of a different 
fpecies, is a doubt which naturalifts have not been able thorough- 
ly to refolve. Addifon, in fome beautiful Latin lines, inferted 
in the Spectator, is entirely of opinion that birds obferve a ftritSt 
chaftity of manners, and never admit the carefles of a different 

Chafte are their inftin&s, faithful is their fire* 
No foreign beauty tempts to falfe defire : 
The fnow-vvhita vefture, and the glittering crown, 
The fimple plumage, or the glolTy down, 
Prompt not their love. The patriot bird purfues 
His well acquainted tints, and kindred hues. 
Hence through their tribes no mix'd polluted flame, 
No monfter breed to mark the groves with (hame : 
But the chafte blackbird, to its partner true, 
Thinks black alone is beauty's favourite hue : 
The nightingale, with mutual paffion bleft, 
Sings to its mate, and nightly charms the nerr, 
While the dark owl, to court his partner flies, 
And owns his offspring in their yellow eyes. 

But whatever may be the poet's opinion, the probability 
Is againft this fidelity among the (mailer tenants of the grove. 


The great birds are much more true to their fpecies than thefe ; 
and, of confequcnce, the varieties among them are more few. 
Of the oftrich, the cafibwary, and the eagle, there are but few 
fpecies ; and no arts that man can ufe, could probably induce 
them to mix with each other. 

But it is otherwife with the fmall birds we are defcribing ; it 
requires very little trouble to make a fpecies between a goldfinch 
and a canary-bird, between a linnet and a lark. They breed 
frequently together; and produce a race, not like the mules 
among quadrupeds, incapable of breeding again ; for this mot- 
ley mixture are as fruitful as their parents. What is fo eafily 
done by art, very probably often happens in a ftate of nature; and 
when the male cannot find a mate of his own fpecies, he flies to 
one of another, that, like him, has been left out in pairing. This, 
fome hiftorians think, may have given rife to the great variety of 
fmall birds that are feen among us ; fome uncommon mixture 
might firfthave formed a new fpecies, and this might have been 
continued down, by birds of this fpecies chufing to breed toge- 

Whether the great variety of our fmall birds may have arifen 
from this fource, cannot now be afcertained; but certain it is, 
that they refemble each other very ftrongly, not only in their 
form and plumage, but alfo in their appetites and manner of 
living. The goldfinch, the linnet, and the yellow-hammer, 
though obvioufly of different fpecies, yet lead a very fimilar 
life ; being equally an aftive, lively, falacious tribe, that fubfift 
by petty thefts upon the labours of mankind, and repay them 
with a fong. Their nefts bear a fimilitude; and they are all 
about the fame time in hatching their young, which is ufually 
fifteen days. Were I therefore to defcribe the manners of thefe 
with the fame minutenefs that I have done the greater birds, I 
fhould only prefent the reader with a repetition of the fame ac- 
counts ; animated neither by novelty nor information. Infread, 
therefore, of Specifying each fort, I will throw them into groupes ; 
uniting thofe together that practife the fame manners, or that are 
remarkable for fimilar qualifications. 


Willoughby has divided all the fmaller birds into thofe that 
have flender bills, and thofe that have fhort and thick bills. 
Thofe with flender bills, chiefly live upon infeas; thofe with 
fhort, ftrong bills, live moftly upon fruits and grain. Among 
flender billed birds, he enumerates the thrufh, the black-bird, 
the fieldfare, the ftarling, the lark, the titmoufe, the waterwag- 
tail, the nightingale, the red-ftart, the robin red-breaft, the bec- 
cafigo, the ftone-chatter, the whin-chat, the goldfinch, the white- 
throat, the hedge-fparrow, the pettichaps, the golden crowned 
wren, the wren, the humming-bird, and feveral other fmall birds 
of the fparrow kind, unknown in this part of the world. 

All thefe, as was faid, live for the moft part upon infers ; 
and are confequently of particular benefit to man. By thefe 
are his grounds cleared of the pernicious fvvarms of vermin that 
devour the budding leaves and flowers ; and that even attack 
the root itfelf, before ever the vegetable can come to maturity. 
Thefe feek for and deftroy the eggs of infects, that would other- 
wife propagate in numbers beyond the arts of man to extirpate : 
they know better than man where to feek for them> and thus 
at once fatisfy their own appetites, and render him the moft ef- 
fential fervices. 

But this is not the only merit of this tribe : in it we have the 
fweeteft fongfters of the grove j their notes are fofter, and their 
manner more mufically foothing than thofe of hard billed birds. 
The foremoft in mufical fame are, the nightingale, the thrufh, 
the blackbird, the lark,, the red-breait, the black-cap, and the 

Birds of the fparrow kind, with thick and fliort bills, are the 
grofsbeak, the greenfinch, the bullfinch, the crofsbill, the houfe- 
fparrow, the chaffinch, the brambling, the goldfinch, the linnet, 
the fifkin, the bunting, the yellow-hammer, the ortolan, the 
wheat-ear, and feveral other foreign birds, of which we know 
rather the names than the hiftory. Thefe chiefly feed upon 
fruits, grain, and corn. They are often troublefome to man, as 
they are a numerous tribe: the harveft often furTers from their 
Uepredatioas ; and while they are driven off* from one end of the- 


field, they fl y round, and come in at the other. But thefe alic/ 
have their iifes ; they are frequently the diftributors of feeds into 
different diftri&s : thofe grains which they fwallow, are fome- 
times not wholly digefted ; and thefs laid upon a foil congenial 
to them, embellifh the face of nature with that agreeable variety 
which art but vainly attempts to imitate. The mifletoe plant, 
which we often fee growing upon the tops of elm and other trees, 
has been thought to be propagated in this manner ; yet, as it is 
often feen growing on the under fide of the branch, and fome- 
times on a perpendicular fhoot, it feems extraordinary how a 
feed could be depofited in that fituation. However this be, there 
are many plants propagated from the depofitions of birds ; and 
fome feeds are thought to thrive the better, for firft having un- 
dergone a kind of maceration in the ftomach of the little animal, 
before it is voided on the ground. 

There are fome agreeable fongfters in this tribe alfo ; and thofe 
who like a loud piercing pipe, endued with great variety and 
perfeverance, will be pleafed moft with their fmging. The fong- 
flers of this clafs are the canary bird, the linnet, the chaffinch, 
the goldfinch, the greenfinch, the bullfinch, the brambling, the 
fifkin, and the yellow-hammer. The note of thefe is not fo gene- 
rally pleafmg as that of the foft billed bird, but it ufually holds 
longer ; and, in a cage, thefe birds are more eafily fed, and hardy. 

This clafs of fmall birds, like all the greater, has its wan- 
derers, that leaves us for a feafon, and then return, to propagate, 
to fir,g, or to embellim the landfcape here. Some of this fmaller 
kind, indeed, are called birds of pafTage, that do not properly 
come under the denomination ; for though they difappear in one 
place, they never leave the kingdom, but are feen fomewhere 
tlfe. But there are many among them, that take longer flights, 
and go to a region colder or warmer, as it fuits their conftitutions. 
The field-fare and the red-wing breed, pafs their fummers in 
Norway, and other cold countries, and are tempted hither to 
our mild winters, and to thofe various berries which then abound 
r.'ith us, and make their principal food. The hawfinch and the 
crcfs-bill are uncertain vifitants, and have no ftated times of 


iwgration. Swallows of every fpecies difappsar at the approach 
of winter. The nightingale, the black-cap, the fly-catcher, the 
willow- wren, the wheat-ear, the whin-chat, and the ftone-chat- 
ter, leave us long before the approach of winter; while the fifkin 
and the linnet only forfake us when oiir winters are more than 
ufually fevere. All the reft of the fmaller tribe never quit this 
country ; but fupport the fevered rigours of the climate. 

Yet it muft not be fuppofed that the manners of our little 
birds prevail in all other countries ; and that fuch kinds as are 
ftationary with us, never wander in other parts of Europe : oil 
the contrary, it happens that many of thofe kinds which are 
birds of paffage in England, are feen, in other places, never to 
depart, but to make one country their fixed refidence, the whole 
year round. It is alfo frequent, that fome birds, which with us 
are faithful refidents, in other kingdoms put on the nature of 
birds of paHage, and difappear for a feafon. 

The fvvallow, that with us is particularly remarked for being 
a bird of pafTage, in upper Egypt, and in the ifland of Java, 
breeds and continues the whole year, without ever difappearing. 
Larks, that remain with us the year throughout, are birds of 
paflage in Sweden; and forfake that climate in winter, to return 
again with the returning fpring. The chaffinch, that with us 
is ftationary, appears during the winter in Carolina arid Virgi- 
nia ; but difappears totally in fummer, to breed in the more 
northern regions. In Sweden alfo, thefe little birds are feen re- 
turning, at the. approach of fpring, from the warmer climates, 
to propagate; which being accomplimed by the latter end of 
autumn, the males and females feparate; the males to continue 
among their native fnows, the females to feek a warmer and 
gentler winter. On this occafion, they are feen in flocks, that 
darken all the air, without a fingb male among them, making 
their way into the more fouthern regions of Denmark, Germa- 
ny and Holland. In this amazon-like retreat, thoufands fall by 
the way ; fome by fatigue^ fome by want ; but the greateft num- 
ber by the nets of the fowler ; the taking them being one of the 
chief amufements among the gentry where they pafs. In fhort, 
VOL. III. Y ' 


the change of country with all this little tribe, is rather a pil- 
grimage than a journey; a migration rather of neceflity than 
of choice. 

Having thus given a general idea of the birds of this clafs, 
it will be proper to give forne account of the molt remarkable 
among them. 



Of the Thrujh and its Affinities. 

IT H the thrum we may rank the red-wing, the field- 
fare, the black-bird, the ring-ouzel, and the water- 

Thefe are the largeft of the fparrow-kind, and may be diftin- 
guifhed from all others of this clafs, as well by their fize, which 
is well known, as by their bills, which are a little bending at 
the point; a fmall notch near the end of the upper chap, and the 
outmoft toe adhering as far as the firfl joint of the middle toe. 
To this tribe may be alfo added the flare or frarling, which, 
though with a flat bill, too much refembles thefe birds to be 
placed any where elfe* 

The miflel-thrufh is diftinguifhed from all of the kind by its 
fuperior frze, being much larger than any of them. It differs 
fcarcely in any other refpedt from the throftle, except that the 
fpots on the breaft are larger. It builds its neft in bufhes, or 
on the fide of fome tree, as all of this kind are found to do, and 
lays four or five eggs in a feafon. Its fong is very line, which it 
begins in fpriflg, fitting on the fummit of a high tree. It is the 
largeft bird of all the feathered tribe that has mufic in its voice ; 
the note of all greater birds being either fcreaming, chattering, 
or croaking. It feeds on infe&s, holly, and mifletoe-berries ; 
and fometimes fends forth a very difagreeable fcream when 
frighted or difturbed, 


The black-bird, which in cold countries, and particularly upon 
the Alps, is fometimes feen all over white, is a beautiful and a 
canorous bird, whittling all the fpring and furnmer-time with a 
note at a diftance the moft pleafmg of all the grove. It is the 
deepeft toned warbler of the woods ; but it is rather unpleafant 
in a cage, being loud and deafening. It lays four or five bluifh 
eggs, in a neft ufually built at the ftump of fome old hawthorn, 
well plaftered on the infide with clay, ftraw, and hair. 

Pleafing, however, as the bird may be, the blue-bird, defcribed 
by Bellonius, is in every refpecT: far fuperior. This beautiful 
animal entirely refembles a black-bird in all but its blue colour. 
It lives in the higheft parts of the Alps, and even there choofes 
the moft craggy rocks and the moft frightful precipices for its re^ 
fldence. As it is rarely caught, it is in high eftimation even in 
the countries where it breeds, but ftill more valuable when car- 
ried from home. It not only whittles in the moft delightful man-, 
ner, but fpeaks with an articulate diftincl: voice. It is fo docile, 
and obferves all things with fuch diligence, that though waked 
at midnight by any of the family, it will fpeak and whittle at the 
word of command. Its colour, about the beginning of winter, 
from blue becomes black, which changes to its original hue on 
the firft approaches of fpring. It makes its neft in deep holes, in 
very high and inacceflible folitucjes, and removes it not only from 
the accefles of man, but alfo hides it with furprifmg cunning 
from the fhammoy, and other wild beafts that might annoy its 

The manner of taking this beautiful bird is faid to be this, 
The fowlers, either by chance or by lying in wait, having found 
out the place where it builds, take with them a ftrong ftilt or 
ftake, fuch as the climbers of rocks make ufe of to affift them in 
their afcent. With the affiftance of this, they moMnt where an 
indifferent fpe&ator would think it impofiible to afcend, covering 
their heads at the fame time to ward off any danger of the falling 
of pebbles or ftones from above. At length, with extreme toil 
and danger, having arrived at the neft, they draw it up from the 
hole in which it is ufually buried, and cherifh the young with an 
aflidujty ecjual to the pains they took to obtain them, It pro- 


duces for the moft part five young, and never more; it feldom 
defcends into the plain country; flies fvvifter than a black-bird, 
and uies the fame food. 

The field-fare and the red-wing make but a fhort ftay in this 
country. With us they are infipid tunelefs birds, flying in 
flocks, and exceffively watchful to preferve the general fafety. 
All their feafon of mufic and pleafure is employed in the more 
northern climates, where they fmg moft delightfully, perched 
among the forefts of maples, with which thofe countries abound. 
They build their nefts in hedges; and lay fix bluifh green eggs 
fpotted with black. 

The ftare, diftinguifhable from the reft of this tribe by the 
glofly green of its feathers, in fome lights, and the purple in 
others, breeds in hollow trees, eaves of houfes, towers, ruins, 
cliffs, and often in high rocks over the fea. It lays four or 
five eggs of a pale greenifh am -colour, and makes its neft of 
ilraw, fmall fibres of roots, and fuch like. Its voice is rougher 
than the reft of this kind ; but what it wants in the melody of 
its note, at compenfates by the facility with which it is taught to 
fpeak. In winter, thefe birds afTemble in vaft flocks, and feed 
upon worms and infects. At the approach of fpring, they aflem- 
ble in fields, as if in confultation together, and for three or four 
days feem to take no nourimmerit : the greater part leave the 
country; the reft breed here, and bring up their young. 

To this tribe might be added above an hundred other birds of 
nearly the thrum fize, and living like them upon fruit and berries. 
Words could not afford variety enough to defcribe all the beau- 
tiful tints that adorn the foreign birds of the thrufh kind. The 
brilliant green of the emerald, the flaming red of the ruby, the 
purple of the ametbyft, or the bright blue of the faphire, could not 
by the moft artful combination fliew any thing fo truly lively or 
delightful to the fight, as the feathers of the chilcoqui or the tau- 
totol. Faffing, therefore, over thefe beautiful, but little known 
birds, I will mention the American mocking-bird, the favourite 
fongfter of a region where the birds excel rather in the beauty 
of their plumage than the fweetnefs of their notes. 


This valuable bird does not fcem to vie with the feathered in- 
habitants of that country, in the beauty of its plumage, content 
with qualifications that endear it to mankind much more. It is 
but a plain bird to the eye, about the fize of a thrum, of a white 
and grey colour, and a reddim bill. It is poiTefled not only of 
its own natural notes, which are mufical and folemn, but it can 
aflume the tone of every other animal in the wood, from the wolf 
to the raven. It feems even to fport itfdf in leading them aftray. 
It will at one time allure the lefTer birds with the call of their 
males, and then terrify them when they have come near with the 
fcreams of the eagle. There is no bird in the foreft but it can 
mimic; and there is none that it has not at times deceived by its 
call. But, not likefuch as we ufually fee famed for mimicking 
with us, and who have no particular merit of their own, the 
mock-bird is ever fureft to pleafe when it is moft itfelf. At thofe 
times it ufually frequents the houfes of the American planters ; 
and, fitting all night on the chimney-top, pours forth the fweeteft 
and the moft various notes of any bird whatever. It would feem, 
if accounts be true, that the deficiency of moft other fong-birds 
in that country is made up by this bird alone. They often build 
their nefts in the fruit trees about houfes, feed upon berries and 
other fruits, and are eafily rendered domeftic. 

CHAP, in. 

Of the Nightingale and other foft-billed Song-Birds. 

TH E nightingale is not only famous among the moderns 
for its finging, but almoft every one of the ancients who 
undertook to defcribe beautiful nature, has contributed to raifc 
its reputation. " The nightingale," fays Pliny, " that, for fifteen 
days and nights hid in the thickeft fhades, continues her note 
without intermiffion, deferves our attention and wonder. How 
kirprizing, that fo great a voice can refide in fo fmall a body ! 
fuch perfeverance in fo minute an animal ! with what a mufical 
propriety are the founds it produces modulated ! The note at 


bne time drawn out with a long breath, now ftealing off into a 
different cadence, now interrupted by a break, then changing 
into a new note by an unexpected transition, now feeming to re- 
new the fame ftrain, then deceiving expectation ! She fome- 
times feems to murmur within herfelf; full, deep, fharp, fwift, 
drawling, trembling ; now at the top, the middle, and the bottom 
of the fcale ! In mort, in that little bill feems to refide all the 
melody which man has vainly laboured to bring from a variety 
of mufical inftruments. Some even feem to be poffeffed of a 
different fong from the reft, and contend with each other with 
great ardour. The bird overcome is then feen only to difconti- 
rme its fong with its life." 

This mod famous of the feathered tribe vifits England in the 
beginning of April, and leaves us in Auguft. It is found but 
in fome of the fouthern parts of the country, being totally un- 
known in Scotland, Ireland or North Wales. They frequent 
thick hedges and low coppices, and generally keep in the middle 
of the bum, fo that they are rarely feen. They begin their fong 
in the evening, and generally continue it for the whole night. 
For weeks together, if undifturbed, they fit upon the fame tree; 
and Shakefpeare rightly defcribes the nightingale fitting nightly 
in the fame place, which I have frequently obferved fhe fcldom 
parts from. 

From Pliny's defcription, we mould be led to believe this 
bird poffeffed of a perfevering ftrain ; but, though it is in facl: 
fo with the nightingale in Italy, yet in our hedges in England, 
the little fongftrefs is by no means fo liberal of her mufic. Her 
note is foft, various and interrupted ; me feldom holds it with- 
out a paufe above the time that one can count twenty. The 
nightingale's paufing fong would be the proper epithet for this 
bird's mufic with us, which is more pleafing than the warbling 
of any other bird, becaufe it is heard at a time when all the reft 
are filent. 

In the beginning of May, the nightingale prepares to make 
its neft, which is formed of the leaves of trees, ftraw and mofs. 
The neft being very eagerly fought after, is as cunningly fecret^ 


ed ; fo that but very few of them are found by the boys when 
they go upon thefe purfuits. It is built at the bottom of hedges, 
where the bufhes are thickeft and beft covered. While the fe- 
male continues fitting, the male at a good diftance, but always 
within hearing, chears the pafTmg hour with his voice, and, by 
the fhort interruption of his fong, often gives her warning of ap- 
proaching danger. She lays four or five eggs; of which but a 
'part, in our cold climate, come to maturity. 

The delicacy, or rather the fame, of this bird's mufic, has in- 
duced many |o abridge its liberty, to be fecured of its fong. In- 
deed, the greateft part of what has been written concerning it in 
our country, confifts in directions how to manage it for domeftic 
finging ; while the hiftory of the bird is confined to dry receipts 
for fitting it for the cage. Its fong, however, in captivity, is not 
fo very alluring; and the tyranny of taking it from thofe hedges 
where only it is t moft pleafmg, ftill more depreciates its impri- 
foned efforts. Gefner allures us, that it is not only the mofl: 
agreeable fongfter in a cage, but that it is poflefled of a mofl ad- 
mirable faculty of talking. He tells the following ftory in proof 
of his aflertion, which, he fays, was communicated to him by a 
friend. " Whilft I was at Ratifbon," fays his correfpondent, 
" I put up at an inn, the fign of the Golden Crown, where my 
hoft had three nightingales. What I am going to repeat is won- 
derful, almoft incredible, and yet is true. The nightingales were 
placed feparately, fo that each was fhut up by itfelf in a dark 
cage. It happened at that time, being the fpring of the year, 
when thofe birds are wont to fing indefatigably, that I was fo 
afflicted with the ftone, that I could fleep but very little all 
night. It was ufual then about midnight, when there was no 
noife in the houfe, but all ftill, to hear the two nightingales jang- 
ling, and talking with each other, and plainly imitatino- men's 
difcourfes. For my part, I was almoft aftonifhed with wonder ; 
for at this time, when all was quiet elfe, they held conference 
together, and repeated whatever they had heard among the guefts 
by day. Thofe two of them that were moft notable, and mafters 
of this art, were fcarce ten feet diftant from one another. The 
third hung more remote, fo that I could not fo well hear it as I 


lay a-bed. But it is wonderful to tell how thofe two provoked 
each other; and by anfwering, invited and drew one another to 
fpeak. Yet did they not confound their words, or both talk to- 
gether, but rather utter them alternately and of courfe. Befides 
the daily difcourfe of the gueils, they chanted out two ftories, 
which generally held them from midnight till morning ; and that 
with fuch modulations and inflexions, that no man could have 
taken to come from fuch little creatures. When I afked the 
hoft if they had been taught, or whether he obferved their talking 
in the night, he anfwered, no: the famefaid the whole family, 
But I, who could not deep for nights together, was perfectly 
fenfible of their difcourfe. One of their ftories was concerning 
the tapfter and his wife, who refufed to follow him to the wars 
as he defired her; for the hufband endeavoured to perfuade his 
wife, as far as I understood by the birds, that he would leave his 
fervice in that inn, and go to the wars in hopes of plunder. But 
{he refufed to follow him, refolving to flay either at Ratifbon, or 
go to Nuremberg. There was a long and earneft contention 
between them, and which ought rather to have been fupprefled and 
kept a fecret. But the birds not knowing the difference between 
modefr, and immodeft, honeft and filthy words, did out with 
them. The other ftory was concerning the war which the em- 
peror was then threatening agrdnft the proteflants ; which the 
birds probably heard from fome of the generals that had confer- 
ences in the houfe. Thefe things did they repeat in the nio-ht 
after twelve o'clock, when there was a deep filence. But in the 
clay-time, for the moft part, they were fileat, and feemed to do 
nothing but meditate and revolve with themfelves upon what 
the guefts conferred together, as they fat at table, or in their 
walks. I verily had never believed our Pliny writing fo many 
wonderful things concerning thefe little creatures, had I not my- 
felf feen with my eyes, and heard them with my ears, utterino- 
fuch things as I have related. Neither yet can I of a fudden 
write all, or call to remembrance every particular that I have 

Such is the fagacity afcribed to the nightingale; it is but to 
have high reputation for any one quality, and the world is rea- 


<ty enough to give us fame for others, to which we have very 
fmall pretenfions. But there is a little bird, rather celebrated 
for its affection to mankind than its finging; which, however, 
in our climate, has the fweeteft note of all others. The reader 
already perceives that I mean the red-breaft, the well known 
friend of man, that is found in every hedge, and makes it vocal. 
The note of other birds is louder, and their inflections more 
capricious ; but this bird's voice is foft, tender, and well fup- 
ported; and the more to be valued as we enjoy it the greateft 
part of the winter. If the nightingale's fong has been compar- 
ed to the fiddle, the red-breaft's voice has all the delicacy of the 

The red-breaft, during the fpring, haunts the wood, the 
grove, and the garden; it retires to the thickeft and madieft 
hedge-rows to breed in. But in winter it feems to become 
more domeftic, and often to claim protection from man. Moft 
of the foft -billed birds, the nightingale, the fwallow, and the tit- 
moufe, leave us in winter, when their infect food is no longer 
offered in plenty; but the red-breaft continues with us the year 
round, and endeavours to fupport the famine of winter by chirp- 
ing round the warm habitations of mankind, by coming into 
thofe fhelters where the rigour of the feafon is artificially expel- 
led, and where infects themfelves are found in greater numbers, 
attracted by the fame caufe. 

This bird breeds differently in different places : in fome coun- 
tries, its neft is ufually found in the crevice of fome moffy bank, 
or at the foot of an hawthorn in hedge-rows ; in others, it choofes 
the thickeft coverts, and hides its neft with oak leaves. The 
eggs are from four to five, of a dull white, with reddifti ftreaks. 

The lark, whether the iky-lark, the wood, or the tit-lark, 
being all diftinguifhable from other little birds by the length of 
their heel, are louder in their fong than either of the former, but 
not fo pleafing. Indeed, the mufic of every bird in captivity 
produces no very pleafing fenfations ; it is but the mirth of a 
little animal infenfible of its unfortunate fituation; it is the 
kndfcape, the grove, the golden break of day, the conteft upon 



the hawthorn, the fluttering from branch to branch, the fsar- 
ing in the air, and the anfwering of its young that gives the bird's 
fong its true relifh. Thefe united, improve each other, and raife 
the mind to a ftate of the higheft, yet moft harmlefs exultation. 
Nothing can in this fituation of mind be more pleafmg than to 
fee the lark warbling upon the wing ; raifing its note as it foars, 
until it frems loft in the immenfe heights above us ; the note 
continuing, the bird itfelf unfeen ; to fee it tlien defcending with 
a fwell as it comes from the clouds, yet finking by degrees as it 
approaches its neft, the fpot where all its affections are centered ; 
the fpot that has prompted all this joy. 

The lark builds its neft upon the ground, beneath fome turf 
that ferves to hide and fhelter it. The female lays four or five 
eggs, of a dufky hue in colour, fomewhat like thofe of a plover. 
It is while file is fitting that the male thus ufually entertains 
her with his fmging; and while he is rifen to an imperceptible 
height, yet he ftill has his loved partner in his eye, nor once lofes 
fight of the neft either while he afcends or is defcending. This 
harmony continues feveral months, beginning early in the fpring 
on pairing. In winter they affemble in flocks, when their fong 
forfakes them, and the bird-catchers deftroy them in great num- 
bers for the tables of the luxurious. 

The black-cap and the. wren, though fo very diminutive, are 
yet prized by forne for their fmging. The former is called by 
fome the mock-:rghtingale; and the latter is admired for the 
loudnefs of its note, compared to the little body from whence it 
liTues. It muft be confefled that this difproportion between the 
voice of a bird and its fize, in fome meafure demands our won- 
der. Quadrupeds in this refpecl: may be confidered as mutes to 
them. The peacock is louder than the lion, and the rabbit is 
not fo loud as the wren, But it muft be confidered, that birds 
are very differently formed; their lungs, in fome meafure, are 
extended through their whole body, while in quadrupeds they 
lie only in the breaft. In birds there are a variety of cells which 
take in the air, and thus pour forth their contents at the little 
ill's command, The black-cap and the wren, therefore^ 


fcre as refpeclable for their voices as they might be deemed in- 
coniiderable for their fize. 

All thofe foft-billed birds, thus prized for their finging, are 
rendered domeftic, and brought up with affiduity, by fuch as ars 
fond of their voices in a cage. The fame method of treatment 
ferves for all, as their food and their habits are nearly the fame; 
The manner of taking and treating them, particularly the night- 
ingale, is this. A nightingale's neft may be found 'by obferving 
the place where the male fmgs, and then by flicking two or three 
meal-worms (a kind of maggot found in flour) on fome neigh- 
bouring thorn, which, when he fees, he will infallibly bear away 
to his young* By liftening, he then may be heard with the 
female chirping to the young ones while they are feeding. When 
the neft is found, if the young ones ar^ not fledged enoug'i to be 
taken, they muft not be touched with the hands, for then the old 
ones will perceive it, and entice them away* They ihould not 
be taken till they are almoft as full of feathers as the old ones ; 
and, though they refufe their meat, yet, by opening their bills, 
you may give them two or three fmall bits at a time, which 
will make them foon grow tame, when they will feed themfelves. 
They fhould be put, neft and all, into a little bafkst, which 
fhould be covered up warm; and they fhould be fed every 
two hours. Their food fhould be fheep's hearts, or other raw 
flefh meat, chopped very fine, and all the firings, (kins and fat, 
taken away. But it fhould always be mixed with hard hen's 
eggs, upon which they will feed and thrive abundantly. 

They fhould then be put in cages like the nightingale's back 
cage, with a little ftraw or dry mofs at the bottom ; but when 
they are grown large, they ihould have ant's 'mould. They 
fhould be kept very clean, as indeed fhould all finging birds 
whatfoever ; for other wife they will have the cramp, and per- 
haps the claws will drop off. In autumn they will fometimes 
abftain from their food for a fortnight, unlefs two or three meal- 
worms be given them twice or thrice a week, or two or three 
fpiders in a day, they muft likewife have a little faitron in their 
water. Figs chopped fmall among their meat, will help them 
to recover their flefh. When their legs are cramped, they 

i8o A N H I S T O R Y O F 

fhould be anointed with frefh butter, or capon's fat, three or 
four days together. If they grow melancholy, put white fu gar- 
candy into their water, and feed them with fheep's heart, giving 
them three or four meal-worms in a day, and a few ants with 
their eggs. They mould alfo have fafrron in their water. 

With regard to adult birds, thofe that are taken before the 
twenty-third of April are accounted the beft, becaufe after that 
they begin to pair. They ufually haunt woods, coppices, and 
quickfet-hedges, where they may be taken in trap cages, baited 
with meal-worms. They mould be placed as near the fpot 
where the bird fings as poflible ; and before you fix the trap, 
turn up the earth tv/ice the breadth of the cage, becaufe they 
will there look for food. They are alfo taken with lime twigs, 
placing them upon the hedge where they ufually fing; and 
there mould be meal-worms ftuck at proper places to draw 
them into the fnare. After they are taken, their wings mould 
be gently tied with thread, to prevent their beating themfelves 
againft the cage. This mould be firft hung in a private place, 
that the bird may not be difturbed; and it mould be fed every 
two hours, at fartheft, with fheep's heart and egg minced very 
fine, mixing it with meal-worms. However, the firft food 
muft be worms, ants, caterpillars, and flies. You muft, to feed 
the bird, take it in your hand, and open the bill with a ftick 
made thick at one end, giving it the infects, or four or five bits 
of food as big as peas, to entice it to eat. Its common food 
fhould be mixed with ants, fo that when the bird goes to pick 
the ants, it may pick up fome of that alfo. The nightingale, 
when caged, begins to fing about the latter end of November^ 
and continues its fong till June. 



Of the Canary-bird^ and other hard-billed Singing-birds. 

THE canary-bird is now become fo common, and has con- 
tinued fo long in a dorneftic ftate, that its native habits, 
as well as its native country, feem almoft forgotten. Though, 
by the name, it appears that thefe birds came originally from the 
Canary Iflands, yet we have them only from Gemany, where 
they are bred up in great numbers, and fold into different parts 
of Europe. At what period they were brought into Europe is 
not well known; but it is certain that about a century ago they 
were fold at very high prices, and kept only for the amufement 
of the great. They have fince been multiplied in great abun- 
dance ; and their price is diminiflied in proportion to their plenty. 

In its native iflands, a region equally noted for the beauty of 
its landfcapes and the harmony of its groves, the canary-bird is 
of a dufky grey colour, and fo different from thofe ufually feen 
in Europe, that fome have even doubted whether it be of the fame 
fpecies. With us, they have that variety of colouring ufual in 
all domeftic fowls ; fome white, fome mottled, fome beautifully 
fhaded with green ; but they are more efteemed for their note 
than their beauty, having a high piercing pipe, as indeed all thofe 
of the finch tribe have, continuing for fome time in one breath 
without intermiffion, then railing it higher and higher by de- 
grees, with great variety. 

It is this that has rendered the canary-bird next to the night- 
ingale the moft celebrated fongfter; and, as it is more eafily 
reared than any of the foft -billed birds, and continues its fong 
throughout the year, it is rather the moft common in our houfes. 
Rules, therefore, have been laid down, and copious inftru&ions 
given, for breeding thefe birds in a domeftic ftate : which, as a 
part of them may conduce towards the natural hiftory of the bird, 
I will take leave to tranfcribe. 

In choofing the canary-bird, thofe are beft that appear with life 
and boldnefs, Handing upright upon the perch likea fparrow-hawlc, 


and not apt to be frighted at every thing that ftirs. If its eyes 
look chearful, and not drowfy, it is a fign of health ; but, on the 
contrary, if it hides its head under the wing, and gathers its body 
up, thefe are fymptons of its being out of order. In choofing 
them, the melody of the fong mould alfo be minded: fome will 
open with the notes of the nightingale, and, running through a 
variety c-f modulations, end like the tit-lark. Others will be- 
gin like the fky-lark ; and by a foft melodious turn, fall into 
the notes of the nightingale. Thefe are lefibns taught this bird 
in its domeftic ftate, and generally taught it by others; but its 
native note is loud, mrill, piercing, and enough to deafen the 
hearers. There are perfons who admire each of thefe fongs ; but 
.the fecond is in the moft general eftimation. 

Canary-birds fo/me times breed all the year round; but they 
moft ufually begin to pair in April, and to breed in June and 
Auguft. Thofe are faid to be the beft breeders which are pro- 
duced between the Engliih and the French. 

Towards the latter end of March, a cock and a hen mould be 
put together in a fmall cage, where they will peck at each other 
in the beginning, but will foon become thoroughly reconciled. 
The room where they are kept to breed fhould be fo fituated as 
to let the birds have the benefit of the morning fun, and the 
windows mould be of wire, not glafs, that they may enjoy the 
benefit of the air. The floor of the room mould be kept clean, 
arid fometimes there mould be dry gravel or fand fifted upon 
it. There mould alfo be two windows, one at each end, and 
feveral perches at proper difbnces for the birds to fettle on, as 
they fly backwards and forwards. A tree in the middle of the 
room would be the moft convenient to divert the birds, and 
fometimes to ferve for building their nefts upon. 

In Germany they prepare a large room, and build it in the man- 
ner of a barn, being much longer than broad, with a fquare place at 
each end, and feveral holes to go into thofe fquare places. In 
thofe outlets they plant feveral forts of trees, in which the birds 
take great delight -to fing and breed. The bottom of the place* 
they ftrew with fand, and upon it cait rape-feed, chick- weed, and 


groundfil, which the old birds feed upon while breeding. In the 
body of the houfe they put all forts of ftuff for building the neft, 
and brooms, one under the other, in all the corners, for the birds 
to build in. Thefe they feparate by partitions from each other, 
to prevent thofe above flying down upon, or other wife incom- 
moding fuch as breed below. The light alfo is excluded, for 
no bird is fond of having light come to its neft. 

With us the apparatus for breeding is lefs expenfive; a little 
breeding cage fometimes fuffices, but feldom any thing more 
extenfive than a fmall room. While the birds are pairing, it is 
ufual to feed them with foft meat ; that is, bread, maw-feed, a 
little fcalded rape-feed, and near a third part of an egg. The 
room fhould be furnifhed with ftufF for making their nefts ; 
fuch as fine hay, wool, cotton, and hair. Thefe materials mould 
be thoroughly dry, and then mixed and tied together in fuch a 
manner that the birds may readily pull out what they want. 
This mould be hung in a proper part of the room, and the male 
will take his turn in building the neft, fitting upon the eggs, 
and feeding the young. They are generally two or three days 
in building their nefts; the hen commonly lays five eggs; and 
in the fpace of fourteen days, the young will be excluded. So 
prolific are thefe birds fometimes, th; t the female will be ready 
to hatch a fecond brood before the firft are able to quit the neft. 
On thefe occafions, me leaves the neft and this young to provide 
herfelf with another to lay her new brood in. In the mean time, 
the male, more faithful to the duties of his truft, breeds up the 
young left behind, and fits them for a ftate of independence. 

When the young ones are excluded, the old ones fhould be 
fupplied with a fufnciency of fjft food every day, with like wife 
frefli greens, fuch as cabbage, lettuce, and chick-weed; in 
June, fhepherd's purfe; and in July and Augufr, plantane. They 
are never to have groundfil after the young are excluded. With 
thefe different delicacies, the old ones v/ill take particular care 
to feed and bring up their young; but it is ufual when they can 
feed themfelvcs, to be taken from the neft, and put into cao-es. 
Their meat then is the yolk of an egg boiled hard, with an equal 


quantity of fine bread, and a little fcalded rape-feed: this muft 
be bruifed till it becomes fine, and then it may be mixed with a 
little maw-feed; after which, blend all together: which is to be 
fupplied them frefh every day. 

The canary-bird, by being kept in company with the linnet or 
the gold-finch, pairs and produces a mixed breed, more like the 
canary-bird, and refembling it chiefly in its fong. Indeed, all this 
tribe, with ftrong bills and piercing notes, and feeding upon 
grain, have the moft ftrong fimilitude to each other, and may 
juftly be fuppofed, as Mr. Buffon imagines, to come from the 
fame original. They all breed about the fame time; they fre- 
quent the fame vegetables ; they build in the fame hedges and 
trees ; and are brought up for the cage with the fame food and 
precautions. The linnet, the bull-finch, and the gold-finch, 
when we know the hiftory of the canary-bird, have fcarce any 
peculiarities that can attract our curiofity, or require our care. 
The only art necelTary with all thofe that have no very fine note 
is to breed them up under fome more pleafing harmonift. The 
goldfinch learns a fine fong from the nightingale ; and the linnet 
and bull-finch may be taught, forgetting the wild notes of na- 
ture, to whittle a long and regular tune. 


Of the Swallow and its Affinities. 

AN idea of any bird in the former clailes, will give us fome 
tolerable conception of the reft. By knowing the linnet, 
or the canary-bird, we have fome notion of the manners of the 
gold-finch; by exhibiting the hiftory of the nightingale, we fee 
alfo that of the black-cap or the tit-moufe. But the fwallow 
tribe feems to be entirely different from all the former in their 
habits, and unlike in all the particulars of their hiftory. 

In this tribe is to be found the goat-fucker, which may be 
ftyled a nodturnal fwallow: it is the largeft of this kind, and is 


known by its tail, which is not forked, like that of the common 
fwallow. It begins its flight at evening, and makes a loud, 
iingular noife, like the whur of a fpinning-wheel. To this alfo 
belongs the houfe-fwallow, which is too well known to need a 
defcriptionj the martin, inferior in fize to the former, and the 
tail much lefs forked ; it differs alfo in its neft, which is covered 
at the top^ while that of the houfe-fwallow is open ; and the fwift, 
rather larger than the houfe-fwallow, with all the toes {landing 
forward; in which it differs from the reft of its kind. All thefe 
referable each other fo ftrongly, that it is not without difficulty 
the fmaller kinds are known afunder. 

Thefe are all known by their very large mouths, which, when 
they fly, are always kept open; they are not lefs remarkable for 
their fhort, flender feet, which fcarce are able to fupport the 
weight of their bodies ; their wings are of immoderate extent for 
their bulk; their plumage is gloffed with a rich purple; and 
their note is a flight twittering, which they feldom exert but upon 
the Wing. 

This peculiar conformation teems attended with a fimilar pe- 
culiarity of manners. Their food is infects, which they always 
purfue flying. For this reafon, during fine weather, when the 
infects are moft likely to be abroad, the fwallows are for ever 
upon the wing, and feen ptirfuing their prey with amazing fwift- 
nefs and agility. All fmaller animals, in fome meafure, find 
fafety by winding and turning, when they endeavour to avoid 
the greater : the lark thiis evades the purfuit of the hawk; and 
man, the crocodile. In this manner, infects upon the wing, en- 
deavour to avoid the fwallow: but this bird is admirably fitted 
by nature to purfue them through their fhorteft turning. Befides 
a great length of wing, it is alfo provided with a long tail, which, 
like a rudder, turns it in its moft rapid motions; and thus 4 
while it is poflefled of the greateft fvviftnefs, it is alfo po/Tefled 
of the moft extreme agility 

Early, therefore, in the fpring, when the returning fun beoins 
to roufe the infect tribe from their annual ftate of torpidity, when 
VOL. III. A a 


the gnat and the beetle put off their earthly robes, and venture 
into air, the fwallow then is feen returning from its long migra- 
tion beyond the ocean, and making its way feebly to the more. 
At firft, with the timidity of a ftranger, it appears but feldom, 
and flies but flowly and heavily along. As the weather grows 
warmer, and "its infect fupply increafes, it then gathers greater 
ftrength and activity. But it fometimes happens that a rainy 
feafon, by repelling the infects, flints the fwallow in its food ; 
the poor bird is then feen, flowly fkimming along the furface of 
the ground, and often refting after a flight of a few minutes. 
In general, however, it keeps on the wing, and moving with a 
rapidity that nothing can efcape. When the weather promifes 
to be fair, the infect tribe feel the genial influence, and make 
bolder flights -, at which time the fwallow follows them in their 
aerial journies, and often rifes to imperceptible heights in the 
purfuit. When the weather is likely to be foul, the infects feel 
the firft notice of it; and from the fwallow' s following low, we 
are often apprized of the approaching change. 

When fummer is fairly begun, and more than a fufficient fup- 
ply for/fuftaining the wants of nature every where offers, the 
fwallow then begins to think of forming a progeny. The neft 
is built with great induftry and art, particularly by the common 
fwallow, which builds it on the tops of chimnies. The martin 
flicks it to the eaves of houfes. The goat-fucker, as we are told, 
builds it on the bare ground. This nefl is built with mud from 
fome neighbouring brook, well tempered with the bill, moiftened" 
with water for the better adhefion; and ftill farther kept firm, 
by long grafs and fibres : within it is lined with goofe feathers, 
which are ever the warmeft and neateft. The martin covers its 
neft at the top, and has a door to enter at j the fwallow leaves 
h'er's quite open. But our European nefts are nothing to be com- 
pkred with thofe the fwallow builds on the coafts of China and 
Coromandel ; the defcription of which, I will give in the plain, 
honeft phrafe of Willoughby. " On the fea-coail of the king- 
dom of China," fays he, " a fort of party-coloured birds, of the 
fhape of fwallows, at a certain feafon of the year, which is their 
breeding time, come out of the midland country to the rocks, 


rmd, from the foam or froth of the fea- water dafhing againft the 
bottom of the rocks, gather a certain clammy, glutinous matter, 
perchance the fpawn of whales, or other young fifties, of which 
they build their nefls, wherein they lay their eggs, and hatch their 
young. Thefe nefts, the Chinefe pluck from the rocks, and 
bring them, in great numbers, into the Earl-Indies to fell. They 
are efteemed, by gluttons, as great delicacies ; who, diflblving 
them in chicken or mutton-broth, are very fond of them ; far 
before oyfters, muflirooms, or other dainty and liquorifh mor- 
fels." What a pity this luxury hath not been introduced 
among us ; and then our great feafters might be enabled to eat a 
little more ! 

The fwallow ufually lays from five to fix eggs, of a white 
colour, fpeckled with red ; and fometimes breeds twrce a year. 
When the young brood are excluded, the fwallow f applies them 
very plentifully, the firft brood particularly, when fhe finds her- 
felf capable of producing two broods in a year. This happens 
when the parents come early, when the feafon is peculiarly mild, 
and when they begin to pair foon. Sometimes they find a diffi- 
culty in rearing even a fingle neft, particularly when the weather 
has been fevere, or their nefts have been robbed in the beginning 
of the feafon. By thefe accidents, this important tafk is fome- 
times deferred to the middle of September. 

At the latter end of September they leave us ; and for a few 
days previous to their departure, afTemble, in vail flocks, on 
houfe-tops, as if deliberating on the fatiguing journey that lies 
before them. This is no flight undertaking, as their flight is di- 
rected to Congo, Senegal, and along the whole Morocco fliore. 
There are fome, however, left behind in this general expedition, 
that do not part till eight or ten days after the reft. Thefe are 
chiefly the latter weakly broods, which are not yet in a condition 
to fet out. They are fometimes even too feeble to venture, till 
the fetting in of winter, while their parents vainly exhort them 
to efforts, which inftincr. afTures them they are incapable of per- 
forming. Thus it often happens, that the wretched little families, 
being compelled to ftay, perifh the firft cold weather that comes ; 
while the tender parents (hare the fate of their offspring, and die 
with their new-fledged brood, 


Thofe that migrate, are firft obferved to arrive in Africa, as- 
Mr. Adanfon affures us, about the beginning of October. They 
are thought to have performed their fatiguing journey in thefpace 
of feven days. They are fometimes feen, when interrupted by 
contrary winds, wavering in their courfe far off at fea, and light- 
ing upon whatever ftiip they find in their paffage. They then 
feem fpent with famine and fatigue ; yet ftill they boldly venture, 
when refrefhed by a few hours reft, to renew their flight, and con- 
tinue the courfe which they had been fleering before. 

Thefe are facts, proved by inconteftible authority; yet it is a 
tioubt whether all fwallows migrate in this manner, or whether 
there may not be fome fpecies of this animal, that, though ex- 
ternally alike, are fo internally different, as to be very differently 
sffe&ed by the approach of winter. We are affured, from many, 
and thofe not contemptible witneffes, that fwallows hide thern- 
felves in holes under ground, joined clofe together, bill againft bill, 
and feet againft feet. Some inform us that they have feen them 
taken out of the water, and even from under the ice, in bunches, 
where they are afferted to pafs the winter without motion. Reau- 
mur, who particularly intereftedhimfelf, in this enquiry, received 
feveral accounts of bundles of fwallows being thus found in 
quarries and under water. Thefe men, therefore, have a right 
to fome degree of affent ; and are not to lofe all credit from our 
ignorance of what they aver. 

All, however, that we have hitherto differed, are formed 
within like other birds; and feem to offer no obfervable variety. 
Indeed, that they do not hide themfelves under water, has been 
pretty well proved, by the noted experiment of Frifch, who tied 
feveral threads died in water-colours round the legs of a great 
number of fwallows, that were preparing for their departure: 
thefe, upon their return the enfuing fummer, brought their 
threads back with them, no way damaged in their colour ; which 
they moft certainly would, if, during the winter, they had been 
fteeped in water : yet ftill, this is a fubjeft on which we muft fuf- 
r>end our aiTcnt, as Klein, the naturalift, has brought fuch a num- 
ber of proofs, in defence of his opinion, that fwallows are torpid 
in winter, as even the moft incredulous muft allow to have fome 
degree of probability. 



Of the Humming-bird and its Varieties. 

HAVING given fome hiftory of the manners of the moft 
remarkable birds, of which accounts can be obtained, I 
might now go to a very extenfive tribe, remarkable for the 
fplendor and variety of their plumage: but the defcription of the 
colours of a beautiful bird, has nothing in it that can inform or 
entertain; it rather excites a longing, which it is impoffiblefor 
words to fatisfy, Naturalifts, indeed, have endeavoured to fa- 
tisfy this defire, by coloured prints j but befide that thefe at beft 
give only a faint refemblance of nature, and are a very indiffer- 
ent kind of painting, the bird itfelf has a thoufand beauties, that 
the moft exquifite artift is incapable of imitating. They, for 
inftance, who imagine they have a complete idea of the beauty 
of the little tribe of Manikin birds, from the pictures we have of 
them, will find thernfelves deceived, when they compare their 
draughts with nature. The fliining greens, the changeable 
purples, and the glofly reds, are beyond the reach of the pencil; 
and very far beyond the coloured print, which is but a poor fub- 
ftitute to painting. I have, therefore, declined entering into a 
minute defcription of foreign birds, of the fparrow kind ; as 
founds would never convey an adequate idea of colours. 

There is one fpecies, however, that I will conclude the hifto- 
ry of this clafs with ; as, though the leaft, it will certainly be 
allowed the moft beautiful of all others. In quadrupeds, the 
fmalleft animals are noxious, ugly, and loathfome: the fmalleft 
of birds, are the moft beautiful, innocent^ and fportive. Of all 
thofe that flutter in the garden, or paint the laridfcape, the hum- 
ming-bird is the moft delightful to look upon, and the moft in- 

Of this charming little animal, there are fix or feven varie- 
ties, from the fize of a fmall wren, down to that of an humble 
bee, An European could never have fuppofed a bird exifting fo 


very fmall, and yet completely furnifhed out with a bill, feathers, 
wings, and inteftines, exaclly refembling thofe of the largeft 
kind. A bird, not fo big as the end of one's little finger, would 
probably be fuppofed but a creature of imagination, were it not 
feen in infinite numbers, and as frequent as butterflies in afum- 
mer's day, fporting in the fields of America, from flower to 
flower, and extracting their fweets with its little bill. 

The fmalleft humming-bird is about the fize of an hazel-nut. 
The feathers on its wings and tail are black ; but thofe on its 
body, and under its wings, are of a greenifh brown, with a fine 
red caft or glofs, which no filk or velvet can imitate. It has a 
fmall creft on its head, green at the bottom, and as it were gild- 
ed at the top; and which fparkles in the fun like a little ftar in 
the middle of its forehead. The bill is black, ftraight, flender, 
and of the length of a fmall pin. The larger humming-bird is 
near half as big as the common wren, and without a creft on 
its head ; but, to make amends, it is covered, from the throat 
half way down the belly, with changeable crimfon coloured fea- 
thers, that, in different lights, change to a variety of beautiful 
colours, much like an opal. The heads of both are fmall, with 
very little round eyes as black as jet. 

It is inconceivable how much thefe add to the high finimmg and 
beauty of a rich luxuriant weftern landfcape. As foon as the 
fun is rifen, the humming-birds, of different kinds, are feen flut- 
tering about the flowers, without ever lighting upon them. 
Their wings are in fuch rapid motion, that it is impoffible to 
difcern their colours, except by their glittering. They are never 
dill, but continually in motion, vifiting flower after flower, and 
extracting its honey, as if with a kifs. For this purpofe, they 
are furmmed with a. forky tongue, that enters the cup of the 
flower, and extracts its necfored tribute: upon this alone they 
fubfift. The rapid motion of their wings brings out an humming 
found, from whence they have their name ; for whatever divides 
the air fwiftly, muft thus produce a murmur. 

The nefts of thefe birds are not lefs curious than the reft : 
they are fufpended in the air, at the point of the twigs of an 

t Tlf SPARROW KIND, tgt 

orange, a pomegranate, or a citron-tree; fometimes even in 
houfes, if they find a fmall convenient twig for the purpofe. 
The female is the architect, while the male goes in queft of ma- 
terials ; fuch as cotton, fine mofs, and the fibres of vegetables. 
Of thefe materials a neft is compofed, of about the fize of an 
hen's egg cut in two, admirably contrived, and warmly lined 
with cotton. They lay two eggs at a time, and never more, 
about the fize of fmall peas, and as white as fnow, with here 
and there a yellow fpeck. The male and the female fit upon 
the neft by turns; but the female takes to herfelf the greateft 
fhare. She feldom quits the neft, except a few minutes in the 
morning and evening, when the dew is upon the flowers and 
their honey in perfection. During this Ihort interval, the male 
takes her place; for, as the egg is fo fmall, the expofing it ever 
fo fhort a time to the weather, would be apt to injure its con- 
tents, the furface expofed being fo great in comparifon to the 
bulk. The time of incubation continues twelve days ; at the 
end of which the young ones appear, much about the fize of a 
blue bottle fly. They are at firft bare; by degrees they are 
covered with down; and, at laft, feathers fucceed, but lefs 
beautiful at firft than thofe of the old ones. 

" Father Labat's companion, in the million to America, found 
the neft of an humming-bird, in a fhed that was near the dwel- 
ling-houfe, and took it in, at a time when the young ones were 
fifteen or twenty days old ; he then placed them in a cage at 
his chamber window, to be aouifed by their fportive flutterings ; 
but he was foon furprized to fee the old ones, that came and fed 
their brood regularly every hour in the day. By thefe means 
they themfelves grew fo tame, that they feldom quitted the 
chamber ; but, without any conftraint, came to live with their 
young ones. All four have frequently come to perch upon 
their mafter's hand, chirping as if they had been at liberty 
abroad. He fed them with a very fine, clear pafte, made of 
wine, bifcuit and fugar. They thruft their tongues into this 
pafte, till they were fatisfied, and then fluttered and chirped 
about the room. I never beheld any thing more agreeable," 
continues he, " than this lovely little family, that had taken 


pofTeffion of my companion's chamber, and that flew out and in, 
juft as they thought proper; but were ever attentive to their maf- 
ter, when he called them. In this manner they lived with him for 
above fix months ; but, at a time when he expected to fee a 
new colony formed, he unfortunately forgot to tie up their cage 
to the cieling at night, to prefer ve them from the rats, and he 
found they were devoured in the morning." 

Thefe birds, on the continent of America, continue to flutter 
the year round ; as their food, which is the honey of flowers, never 
forfakes them in thofe warm latitudes where they are found. But 
it is otherwife in the iflands of the Antilles, where, when the 
winter feafon approaches, they retire, and, as fome fay, continue 
in a torpid ftate during the feverity of that feafon. At Surinam 
and Jamaica, where they conftantly have flowers, thefe beautiful 
birds are never known to difappear. 

It is a doubt, whether or not, thefe birds have a continued note 
in fmging. All travellers agree that, befide the humming noife 
produced by their wings, they have a little interrupted chirp ; 
but Labat aflerts, that they have a moft pleafmg melancholy 
melody in their voices, though fmall and proportioned to the or- 
gans which produce it. It is very probable, that, in different 
places, their notes are alfo different; and as there are fome that 
continue torpid all the winter, there may likewife be fome with 
agreeable voices, though the reft may in general be filent. 

The Indians formerly made great ufe of this bird's plumage^ 
in adorning their belts and head-drefs. The children take them 
in the fields upon rings fmeared with birdlime ; they approach the 
place where the birds are flying, and twirling their rings in the 
air, fo allure them, either by the colour or the found, that the 
fimple little creature comes to reft upon the ring, and is feized. 
They are then inftantly killed and gutted, and hung up in the 
chimney to dry. Thofe who take greater care, dry them in a 
ftove, which is not fo likely to injure the plumage as the forego- 
ing method. Their beautiful feathers were once the ornament 
of the higheft rank of favage nobility : but at prefent, they take 
the bird rather for the purpofe of felling it as a curiofity to the 


Europeans, than that of ornament for themfelves. All the tafte 
for favage finery is wearing out faft, even among the Americans. 
They now begin to adopt, if not the dreiTes of Europe, at leaft 
the materials of which they are compofed. The wandering war- 
rior is far from thinking himfelf fine at prefent with his bow and 
his feathered crown: his ambition reaches to higher ornaments ; 
a gun, a blue fhirt, and a blanket. 






Of Birds of the Crane Kind in General. 

H E progreflions of Nature from one clafs of beings to 
another, are always by flow and almoft imperceptible de- 
grees. She has peopled the woods and the fields with a variety 
of the moft beautiful birds ; and, to leave no part of her extenfive 
territories untenanted, fhe has flocked the waters with its feathered 
inhabitants alfo : fhe has taken the fame care in providing for the 
wants of her animals in this element, as fhe has done with refpe6t 
to thofe of the other: fhe has ufed as much precaution to render 
water -fowl fit for fwimming, as fhe did in forming land-fowl 
for flight : fhe has defended their feathers with a natural oil, and 
united their toes by a webbed membrane ; by which contrivances 
they have at once fecurity and motion. But between the clafTes 
of land-birds that fhun the water, and of water-fowl that are 
made for fwimming and living on it, fhe has formed a very nu- 
merous tribe of birds, that feem to partake of a middle nature ; 
that, with divided toes, feemingly fitted to live upon land, are at 
the fame time furnifhed with appetites that chiefly attach them 
to the waters. Thele can properly be called neither land-birds 
nor water-fowl, as they provide all their fuftenance from watry 
places, and yet are unqualified to feek it in thofe depths where it 
is often found in greateft plenty. 

This clafs of birds, of the crane kind, are to be diftinguiihed 
from others rather by their appetites than their conformation. 
Yet even in this refpect they feem to be fufficiently difcriminated 
by Nature: as they are to live among the waters, yet are inca- 
pable of fwimming in them, moft of them have long legs, fitted 


for wading in fhallow waters, or long bills proper for groping in 

Every bird of this kind, habituated to marfliy places, may be 
known, if not by the length of its legs, at leaft by the fcaly fur- 
face of them. Thofe who have obferved the legs of a fnipe or a 
woodcock, will eafily perceive my meaning ; and how different 
the furface of the fkin that covers them is from that of the pigeon 
or the partridge. Moft birds of this kind alfo, are bare of fea- 
thers half way up the thigh ; at leaft in all of them, above the 
knee. Their long habits of wading in the waters, and having 
their legs continually in moifture, prevent the growth of feathers 
on thofe parts ; fo that there is a furprifing difference between the 
leg of a crane, naked of feathers almoft up to the body, and the 
falcon booted almoft to the very toes. 

The bill alfo is very diftinguifhable in moft of this clafs. It 
is, in general, longer than that of other birds, and in fome finely 
fluted on every fide ; while at the point it is pofTefTed of extreme 
fenfibility, and furnimed with nerves, for the better feeling of 
their food at the bottom of marfhes, where it cannot be feen. 
Some birds of this clafs are thus fitted with every convenience : 
they have long legs for wading; long necks for ftooping ; long 
bills for fearching; and nervous points for feeling. Others are 
not fo amply provided for ; as fome have long bills, but legs of no 
great length; and others have long necks, but very fhort legs. 
It is a rule which univerfally holds, that where the bird's legs are 
long, the neck is alfo long in proportion. It would indeed be 
an incurable defect in the bird's conformation, to be lifted upon 
ftilts above its food, without being furniflied with an inftrument 
o reach it. 

If we confider the natural power of this elafs, in a compara- 
tive view, they will feem rather inferior to thofe of every other 
tribe. Their nefts are more fimple than thofe of the fparrow, 
and their methods of obtaining food lefs ingenious than thofe of 
the falcon: the pie exceeds them in cunning; and though they 
have all the voracioufnefs of the poultry tribe, they want their fe^ 
.cundity. None of this kind, therefore, have been taken into 


man's fociety, or under his protection; they are neither caged, 
like the nightingale; nor kept tame, like the turkey, but lead a 
life of precarious liberty, in fens and marfhes, at the edges of 
Jakes, and along the fea-fhore. They all live upon fifli or in- 
fects, one or two only excepted; even thofe that are called mud- 
fuckers, fuch as the fnipe and the woodcock, it is more than pro- 
bable, grope the bottom of marfhy places only for fuch infe&s as 
are depofited there by their kind, and live in a vermicular ftate, 
in pools and plafhes, till they take wing, and become flying in- 

All this clafs, therefore, that are fed upon infecls, their food be- 
ing eafily digeftible, are good to be eaten ; while thofe which 
live entirely upon fiili, abounding in oil, acquire in their flem the 
rancidity of their diet, and are, in general, unfit for our tables. 
To favages, indeed, and failors on a long voyage, every thing 
that has life feems good to be eaten; and we often find them re- 
commending thofe animals as dainties, which they themfelves 
would fpurn at, after a courfe of good living. Nothing is more 
common in their journals than fuch accounts as thefe cc This 
day we fhot a fox pretty good eating : this day we mot a heron 
pretty good eating: and this day we killed a turtle which 
they rank with the heron and the fox, as pretty good eatino-." 
Their accounts, therefore, of the flefh of thefe birds, are not to be 
depended upon; and when they cry up the heron or the {fork of 
pther countries as luxurious food, we muft always attend to the 
{rate of their appetites who give the character. 

In treating of this clafs of birds, it will be beft to obferve the 
fimpleft method poilible; neither to load the memory with nu- 
merous difHnclions, nor yet confufe the imagination, by a total 
v/ant of arrangement. I will therefore defcribe fome of the larger 
forts feparately ; as in an hiftory of birds, each of thefe demands 
peculiar diftinclion. The crane, the ftork, the Balearic crane, 
the heron, the bittern, with fome others, may require a feparate 
hiftory. Some particular tribes may next offer, that may very 
naturally be clafled together: and as for all the fmaller and leaft 
iv mark able forts, they may be grouped into one general defcrip- 




The Crane. 

THERE is fomething extraordinary in the different ac- 
counts we have of this bird's fize and dimenfions. Wil- 
loughby and Pennant make the crane from five to fix feet long, 
from the tip of the tail. Other accounts fay, that it is above five 
feet high ; and others, that it is as tall as a man. From the ma- 
ny which I myfelf had feen, I wn this imputed magnitude fur- 
prifed me ; as from memory I was convinced, they could neither 
be fo long nor fo tall. Indeed, a bird, the body of which is not 
larger than that of a turkey-hen, and acknowledged on all hands 
not to weigh above ten pounds, cannot eafily be fuppofed to be 
almoft as long as an oftrich. Briflbn, however, feems to give 
this bird its real dimenfions, when he defcribes it as fomething 
lefs than the brown ftork, about three feet high, and about four 
from the tip to the tail. Still, however, the numerous tefti- 
monies of its fuperior fize are not to be totally rejected; and per- 
haps, that from which Brifibn took his dimenfions, was one of 
the fmalieft of the kind. 

The crane, taking its dimenfions from him, is exactly three 
feet four inches from the tip to the tail, and four feet from the 
head to the toe. It is a tall, (lender bird, with a long neck and 
long legs. The top of the head is covered with black briftles, 
and the back of it is bald and red, which fufficiently difringuifhes 
this bird from the flork, to which it is very nearly allied in fize 
and figure. The plumage in general, is afh-coloured ; and 
there are two large tufts of feathers, that fpring from the pinion 
of each wing. Thefe bear a refcmblance to hair, and are finely 
curled at the ends, which the bird has a power of erecting andde- 
preffing at pleafure. Gefner fays, that thefe feathers, in his time, 
ufed to be fet in gold, and worn as ornaments in caps. 

Such are the dimenfions of a bird, concerning which, not to 
rn.en.tion modern times, there have been mere fables propagated 


than of any other. It is a bird with which all the ancient writers 
are familiar ; and, in defcribing it, they have not failed to mix 
imagination with hiftory. From the policy of the cranes, they 
fay, we are to look for an idea of the moft perfect republic amongft 
ourfelves ; from their tendernefs to their decrepid parents, which 
they take care to nourifh, to cherim, and fupport when flying, 
we are to learn lefTons of filial piety; but particularly from their 
conducl: in fighting with the pigmies of Ethiopia, we are to re- 
ceive our maxims in the art of war. In early times, the hiftory 
of nature fell to the lot of poets only, and certainly none could 
defcribe it fo well ; but it is a part of their province to embellifh 
alfo; and when this agreeable fcience was claimed by a more 
fober clafs of people, they were obliged to take the accounts of 
things as they found them ; and, in the prefent inftance, fable ran 
down blended with truth to pofterity. 

In thefe accounts, therefore, there is fome foundation of truth ; 
yet much more has been added by fancy. The crane is certainly 
a very focial bird, and they are feldom feen alone. Their ufual 
method of flying or fitting, is in flocks of fifty or fixty together ; 
and while a part feed, the reft ftand like centinels upon duty. 
The fable of their fupporting their aged parents, may have arifen 
from their ftricT: connubial affection ; and as for their fighting 
with the pigmies, it may not be improbable that they have 
boldly withftood the invafions of monkies coming to rob their 
nefts ; for in this cafe, as the crane lives upon vegetables, it is 
not probable that it would be the firft aggrefibr. 

However this be, the crane is a wandering, fociable bird, that, 
for the moft part, fubfifts upon vegetables ; and is known in 
every country of Europe, except our own. There is no part of 
the world, fays Belonius, where the fields are cultivated, that 
the crane does not come in with the hufbandman for a (hare in 
the harveft. As they are birds of pafiage, they are feen to de- 
part and return regularly at thofe feafons, when their provifion 
invites or repels them. They generally leave Europe about the 
latter end f autumn, and return in the beginning of fummer. 
In the inland parts of the continent, they are feen crofling the 
country, ia Kocks of fifty or an hundred, making from the north? 


em regions towards the fouth. In thefe migrations, however, 
they are not fo refolutely bent upon going forward, but that if a 
field of corn offers in their way, they will ftop a while to regale 
upon it : on fuch occafions, they do incredible damage, chiefly in 
the night ; and the hufbandman, who lies down in joyful expec- 
tation, rifes in the morning, to fee his fields laid entirely wafte, 
by an enemy, whole march is too fwift for his vengeance to 

Our own country is free from their vifits ; not but that they 
were formerly known in this ifland, and held in great eftimation, 
for the delicacy of their flefh : there was even a penalty on fuch as 
deftroyed their eggs ; but, at prefent, they never go fo far out 
of their way. Cultivation and populoufnefs go hand in hand;, 
and though our fields may offer them a greater plenty, yet it is 
fo guarded, that the birds find the venture greater than the en- 
joyment ; and probably we are much better off by their abfence 
than their company. Whatever their flefh might once have 
been, when, as Plutarch tells us, cranes were blinded and kept 
in coops, to be fattened for the tables of the great in Rome; or, 
as they were brought up, fluffed with mint and rue, to the ta- 
bles of our nobles at home ; at prefent, they are confidered all 
over Europe as wretched eating. The flefh is fibrous and 
dry, requiring much preparation to make it palatable ; and even 
after every art, it is fit only for the ftomachs of ftrong and la- 
bouring people. 

The cold Arctic region feems to be this bird's favourite abode. 
They come down into the more fouthern parts of Europe, rather 
as vifitants than inhabitants : yet it is not well known in what 
manner they portion out their time, to the different parts of the 
world. The migrations of the field-fare or thrufh, are obvious, 
and well known ; they go northward or fouthward, in one fim- 
ple track ; when their food fails them here, they have but one 
region to go to. But it is otherwife with the crane ; he changes 
place, like a wanderer: he fpends the autumn in Europe; he 
then flies oft, probably to fome more fouthern climate, to enjoy 
a part of the winter; returns to Europe in the fpring ; croiTes 
up to the north in fummer : vifits thole lakes that are never dry; 


and then comes down again, to make depredations upon our cul- 
tivated grounds, in autumn. Thus Gefner affures us, that the 
cranes ufually begin to quit Germany, from about the eleventh 
of September to the feventeenth of October ; from thence they 
are feen flying fouthv/ard by thoufands; and Redi tells us, they 
arrive in Tufcany a fhort time after. There they tear up the 
fields, newly fown, for the grain juft committed to the ground, 
and do great mifchief. It is to be fuppofed, that, in the fe verity 
of winter, they go fouthward ftill nearer the line. They again 
appear in the fields of Pifa, regularly about the twentieth of 
February, to anticipate the fpring. 

In thefe journies it is amazing to conceive the heights td 
which they afcend, when they fly. Their note is the loudeft of 
all other birds ; and that is often heard in the clouds, when the 
bird itfelf is entirely unfeen. As it is light for its fize, and 
fpreads a large expanfe of wing, it is capable of floating at the 
greater! height, where the air is lighteft; and as it fecures its 
fafety, and is entirely out of the reach of man, it flies in traces 
which would be too fatiguing for any other birds to move for- 
ward in. 

In thefe aerial journies, though unfeen themfelves, they have 
the diftin&eft vifion of every object below. They govern and di- 
rect their flight by their cries; and exhort each other to proceed 
or to defcend, when a fit opportunity offers for depredation. Their 
voice, as was obferved, is the loudeft of all the feathered tribe; 
and its peculiar clangor arifes from the very extraordinary length 
and contortion of the windpipe. In quadrupeds,, the windpipe is 
fhort, and the glottis, or cartilages that form the voice, are at 
that end of it which is next the mouth: in water-fowl the wind- 
pipe is longer, but the cartilages that form the voice are at the 
other end, which lies down in their belly. By this means they 
have much louder voices, in proportion to their fize, than any other 
animals whatever; for the note, when formed below, is reverbe- 
rated through all the rings of the windpipe, till it reaches the 
air. But the voice of the duck or the goofe, is nothing to be com- 
pared to that of the crane, whofe windpipe is not only made in 


the lame manner with theirs, but is ab6ve twenty times as long. 
Nature feems to have beftowed much pains in lengthening out 
this organ. From the outfide, it enters through the flefh into 
the breaft-bone, which hath a great cavity within to receive it. 
There, being thrice reflected, it goes out again at the fame hole* 
and fo turns down to the lungs, and thus enters the body a fe- 
cond time. The loud clangorous found which the bird is thus 
enabled to produce, is, when near^ almoft deafening: however, it 
is particularly ferviceable to the animal itfelf, either during its 
migrations or its (ray : by it the flock is encouraged in their jour- 
nies ; and if, while they are feeding, which is ufually performed 
in profound filence, they are invaded on any fide, the bird that 
firft perceives the danger, is fure to found the alarm, and all are 
fpeedily upon the wing. 

As they rife but heavily, they are very fhy birds, and feldom 
let the fowler approach them. Their depredations are ufually 
made in the darkeit nights; at which time they enter a field of 
corn, and trample it down, as if it had been eroded over fey a re- 
giment of foldiers. On other occafions, they choofe fome extenfive 
folitary marfh, where they range themfelves all day, as if they 
were in deliberation : and not having that grain which is moft to 
their appetites^ wade the marfhes, for infels^ and other foodj 
which they can procure with lefs danger. 

Corn is their favourite food ; biit there is fcarce any other that 
comes amifs to therm Redi, who opened feveral, found the fto- 
mach of one full of the herb called dandelion; that of another was 
filled with beans ; a third had a great quantity of clover in 
its ftomach; while thofe of two others were filled with earth- 
worms and beetles 5 in fome he found lizards and fea-fifh ; in 
others, fnails, grafs, and pebbles, (Wallowed perhaps for medi- 
cinal pur[)ofes; It feems, therefore, that thefe birds are eafily 
fuppliedj and that they are noxious to corn-fields' but on fome 
particular occafions; 

In general it is a peaceful bird, both in its 'own fociety, and 
with refpect to thofe of the foreft. Though fo large in appear- 
ance, a little falcon purfues, and often dibbles it* The method is, 

VOL, III, C c 


with thofe who are fond of hawking, to fly feveral hawks to*' 
gether againft it ; which the crane endeavours to avoid, by fly- 
ing up perpendicularly, till the air becomes too thin to fupport it 
any higher. The hawk, however, {till bears it company; and 
though lefs fitted for floating in fo thin a medium, yet, pofTeiTed 
of greater rapidity, it ftill gains the afcendency. They both 
often rife out of fight; but foon the fpeclator, who keeps his eye 
fixed above, perceives them, like two fpecks, beginning to ap- 
pear : they gather on his eye for a little fpace, and Ihortly after 
come tumbling perpendicularly together, with great animofity 
on the fide of the hawk, and a loud {creaming on that of the 
crane. Thus driven to extremity, and unable to fly, the poor 
animal throws itfelf upon its back, and, in that fituation, makes 
a moil defperate defence, till the fportfman coming up, generally 
puts an end to the conteft with its life. 

It was once the barbarous cuftom to breed up cranes to be 
thus baited; and young ones were taken from the neft, to be 
trained up for this cruel diverfion. It is an animal eafily tamed; 
and, if we can believe Albertus Magnus, has a particular af- 
fection for man. This quality, however, was not fufficient to 
guard it from being made the victim of his fierce amufements. 
The female, which is eafily diftinguifhed from the male, by not 
being bald behind, as he is, never lays above two eggs at a time ; 
being like thofe of a goofe, but of a bluifh colour. The young 
ones are foon fit to fly, and then the parents forfake them to 
fhift for themfelves; but, before this time, they are led forth to 
the places where their food is moil eafily found. Though yet 
unfledged, they run with fuch fwiftnefs that a man cannot 
eafily overtake them. We are told that as they grow old, their 
plumage becomes darker; and as a proof of their longevity, 
Aldrovandus affures us, that a friend of his kept one tame for 
above forty years. 

Whatever may have been the difpofition of the great, the 
vulgar of every Country, to this day, bear the crane a compaf- 
fiomte regard. It is poffible the ancient prejudices in its favour, 
which having been once planted, are eradicated but flowly, may 
ftill continue to operate. In fome countries, it is confidertd as 


an heinous offence to kill a crane : and though the legislature 
declines to punifh, yet the people do not fail torefent the injury. 
The crane, they, in fonie meafure, confider as the prophet of 
the feafon: upon its approach or delay they regulate the periods 
of their rural economy. If their favourite bird comes early irt 
the feafon, they exper a plentiful fummer ; if he is flow in his 
vifits, they then prepare for an unfavourable fpring. Whatever 
\vifdom there may be in defpifmg the prejudices of the vulgar, 
there is but little in condemning them. They have generally 
had their origin in good motives ; and it fliould never be our 
endeavour to fupprefs any tender emotions of friendfliip or pity, 
jn thofe hard breafts that are, in general, unfufceptible of either, 

CHAP. Ill, 

The Stork. 

IF we regard the Stork externally only, we fliall be very 
apt to confound it with the crane. It is of the fame fize ; it 
has the fame formation as to the bill, neck, legs, and body, ex- 
cept that it is fomething more corpulent. Its differences are 
but very fight; fuch as the colour, which in the crane is afh and 
black, bwt in the ftork is white and brown. The nails of the 
toes of the ftork alfo are very peculiar ; not being clawed like 
thofe of other birds, but flat like the nails of a man. 

Thefe, however, are but very flight differences ; and its true 
diftinHons are to be taken rather from its manners than its 
form. The crane has a loud piercing voice ; the ftork is filent, 
and produces no other noife than the clacking of its under chap 
againft the upper ; the crane has a ftrange convolution of the 
windpipe through the breaft-bone ; the ftork's is formed in the 
ufual manner : the crane feeds moftly upon vegetables and o-rain ; 
the ftork preys entirely upon frogs, fifhes, bircftand ferpents ; the 
crane avoids towns arid populous places ; the ftork lives always 
in or near them : the crane lays but two eggs, and the ftork e* 


nerally four. Thefe are diftin&ions fully fufficient to ma^k the 
fpecies, notwithflanding the fimiiitude of their form. 

Storks arc birds of paffage, like the former; but it is hard to 
fay whence they come or whither they go. When they withdraw 
from Europe, they all afTemble on a particular day, and never 
leave one of their company behind them. They take their flight 
in the night ; which is the reafon the way they go has never 
been obferved. They generally return into Europe in the mid- 
dle of March, and make their nefts on the tops of chimnies and 
houfes as well as of high trees. The females lay from two to 
four eggs ; of the fize and colour of thofe of geefe j and the 
male and female fit upon them by turns. They are a month in 
hatching ; and when their young are excluded, they are particu- 
larly felicitous for their fafety. 

As the food of thefe birds confifts in a great meafure of frogs 
and ferpents, it is not to be wondered at that different nations 
have paid them a particular veneration. The Dutch are very 
folicitous for the prefervation of the ftork in every part of their 
republic. This bird feems to have taken refuge among their 
towns ; and builds on the tops of their houfes without any mo- 
leftation. There it is feen rcfting familiarly in their ftreets, and 
protected as well by the laws as the prejudices of the people. 
They have even got an opinion that it will only live in a repub- 
lic; and the ftory of its filial piety, firft falfely propagated of 
the crane, has in part been afcribed to the ftork. But it is not in 
republics alone that the ftork is feen to refide ; as there are few 
towns on the (continent, in low marfhy fituations, but have the 
ftork as an inmate among them ; as well the defpotic princes of 
Germany, as the little republics of Italy. 

The ftork feems a general favourite even among the mo- 
derns ; but with the ancient Egyptians their regard was carried 
even to adoration. This enlightened people, who worfhipped 
the Deity in his creatures, paid divine honours to the ibis, as is 
univerfally knov#i. It has been ufually fuppofed that the anci- 
ent ibis is the fame with that which goes at prefent by the fame 
name ; a bird of the ilork kind, of about the iize of a curlew^ 


all over black, with a bill very thick in the beginning, but end- 
ing in a point for the better feizing its prey, which is caterpillars, 
locufts, and ferpents. But, however ufeful the modern ibis may 
be in ridding Egypt, where it re fides, of the vermin and vene- 
mous animals that infeft it; yet it is much doubted, whether 
this be the fame ibis to which the ancients paid their adoration. 
Maillet, the French conful at Cairo, obferves, that it is very 
hard to determine what bird the ancient ibis certainly was, be- 
caufe there are cranes, ftorks, hawks, kites, and falcons, that 
are all equally enemies to ferpents, and devour a vaft number. 
He farther adds, that in the month of May, when the winds be- 
gin to blow from the internal parts of Africa, there are feveral 
forts of birds that come down from Upper Egypt, from whence 
they are driven by the rains, in fearch of a better habitation, and 
that it is then they do this country fuch fignal fervices. Nor 
does the figure of this bird, hieroglyphically reprefented on their 
pillars, mark it fufficiently to make the diftincHon. Befides, 
the modern ibis is not peculiar to Egypt; as it is to be feen but 
at certain feafons of the year : whereas we are informed by Pliny, 
that this bird was feen no where elfe. It is thought, therefore, 
that the true ibis is a bird of the vulture kind, defcribed above, 
and called by fome the capon of Pharaoh, which not only is a de- 
vourer of ferpents, but will follow the caravans that go to Mecca, 
to feed upon the offal of the animals that are killed on the jour- 


Of the Balearic and other foreign Cranes. 

HAVING ended the lafl chapter with doubts concerning 
the ibis, we mall begin this with doubts concerning the 
Balearic crane. Pliny has defcribed a bird of the crane kind, 
with a topping refernbling that of the green woodpecker. This 
bird for a long time continued unknown, till we became ac- 
quainted with the birds of tropical climates, when one of the 


crane kind with a topping was brought into Europe, and def- 
cribed by Aldrovandus as Pliny's Balearic crane. Hence thefe 
birds, which have fmce been brought from Africa and the Eaft 
in numbers, have received the name of Balearic cranes, but with- 
out any juft foundation. The real Balearic crane of Pliny feems 
to be the lefTer afh -coloured heron, with a topping of narrow 
white feathers, or perhaps the egret, with two long feathers that 
fall back from the fides of the head. The bird that we are about 
to defcribe, under the name of the Balearic crane, was unknown 
to the ancients j and the heron or egret ought to be reinftated in 
their juft title to that name, 

When we fee a very extraordinary animal, we are naturally 
led to fuppofe that there muft be fomething alfo remarkable in 
its hiftory to correfpond with the fingularity of its figure. But it 
often happens that hiftory fails on thofe occafions where we 
moft defire information. In the prefent inftance, in particular, 
no bird prefents to the eye a more whimfical figure than this, 
which we muft be content to call the Balearic crane. It is pret- 
ty nearly of the fliape and fizeof the ordinary crane, with long 
legs and a long neck, like others of the kind : but the bill is 
fhorter, and the colour of the feathers of a dark greenim grey. 
The head and throat form the moft ftriking part of this bird's 
figure. On the head is feen (landing up, a thick round creft, 
made of briftles, fpreading every way, and refembling rays ftand- 
ing out in different directions. The lougeft of thefe rays are 
about three inches and an half; and they are all topped with a 
kind of black taffels, which give them a beautiful appearance. 
The fides of the head and cheeks are bare, whitifh, and edged 
with red, while u&ider the throat hangs a kind of a bag or 
wattle, like that of a cock, but not divided into twp. To give 
this odd compofition a higher rimming, the eye is large and 
ftaring ; the pupil black and big, furrounded with a gold colour- 
ed iris that completes the bird's very fmgular appearance. 

From fuch a peculiar figure, we might be led to wifli for a 
minute hiftory of its manners ; but of thefe we can give but 
flight information. This bird comes from the coaft of Africa 
and the' Cape de Verd Iflands. As it runs, it ftretches out its 


wings, and goes very fwiftly ; otherwife its ufual motion is very 
flow. In their domeftic ftate, they walk very deliberately 
among other poultry, and fufFer themfelves to be approached 
(at leaft it was fo with that Ifaw) by every fpetator. They 
never rooft in houfes but about night: when they are difpofed 
to go to reft, they fearch out fome high wall, on which they perch 
in the manner of a pfeacock. Indeed, they fo much referable that 
bird in manners and difpofition, that fome have defcribed them 
by the name of the fea-peacock ; and Ray has been inclined to 
rank them in the fame family. But though their voice and 
roofting be fimilar, their food, which is entirely upon greens, ve- 
getables, and barley, feems to make fome difference. 

In this chapter of foreign birds of the crane kind, it will be 
proper to mention the jabiru and jabiru guacu, both natives of 
Brafil. Of thefe great birds of the crane kind, we know but 
little, except the general outline of their figure, and the enormous 
bills which we often fee preferved in the cabinets of the curious. 
The bill of the latter is red, and thirteen inches long ; the bill 
of the former is black, and is found to be eleven. Neither of 
them, however, are of a fize proportioned to their immoderate 
length of bill. The jabiru guacu is not above the fize of a com- 
mon ftork, while the jabiru with the fmalleft bill exceeds the 
fize of a fwan. They are both covered with white feathers, 
except the head and neck, which.gre naked ; and their principal 
difference is in the fize of the body and the make of the bill ; 
the lower chap of the jabiru guacu being broad, and bending 

A i)ird ftill more extraordinary may Madded to this clafs, 
called the Anhima, and, like the two former, a native of Brafil. 
This is a water fowl of the rapacious kind, and bigger than a 
fwan. The head, which is fmall for the fize of the body, bears 
a black bill, which is not above two inches long; but what 
diftinguifhes it in particular, is a horn growing from the fore- 
head as long as the bill, and bending forward like that of the 
fabulous unicorn of the ancients. This horn is not much thicker 
than a crow quill, as round as if it were turned in a lathe, and 
of an ivory colour. But this is not the only inftrument of battle. 


this formidable bird carries; it feems to be armed at all points; 
for at the fore part of each wing, at the fecond joint, fpring two 
fcraight triangular fpurs, about as thick as one's little finger: 
the foremoft of thefe goads or fpurs is above an inch long ; the 
hinder is fhorter, and both of a dufky colour. The claws alfo are 
long and (harp ; the colour is black and white ; and they cry terri- 
bly loud, founding fomething like vyhoo v^hoo; They are never 
found alone, but always in pairs ; the cock and hen prowl toge- 
ther; and their fidelity is faidto be fuch, that when one dies, the 
other never departs from the carcafe, but dies with its companion. 
It makes its neft of clay, near the bodies of trees, upon the 
ground, of the fhape of an oven. 

One bird more may be fubjoined to this clafs, not for the 
oddity of its figure, but the peculiarity of its mariners. It is 
vulgarly called by our failors the buffoon bird, and by the French 
the demoifelle, or lady. The fame qualities have procured it 
thefe different appellations from two nations, who, on more oc- 
cafions than this, look upon the fame objects in very different 
lights. The peculiar geftures and contortions of this bird, the 
proper name of which is the Numidian crane, are extremely 
fmgtilar; and the French, who arc fkilled in the arts of elegant 
gefticulation, confider all its motions as lady-like and graceful; 
Our Englifh failors, however, who have not entered fo deeply 
into the dancing art, think, that while thus in motion, the bird 
cuts but a very ridiculous figure* It ftoops, rifes, lifts one 
wing, then another, turns round, fails forward, then back again 3 
all which highly (Averts our feamen; not imagining, perhaps^ 
that all thefe contSpons are but the aukward expreflion, not of 
the poor animal's pleafures, but its fears. 

It is a very fcarce bird; the plumage is of a leaden greyj 
but it is diftinguifhed by fine white feathers, cohfifting of long 
fibres, which fall from the back of the head, about four inches 
Jong; while the fore part of the neck is adorned with black 
feathers, compofed of very fine, foft, and long fibres, that hang 
down upon the ftomach, and give the bird a very graceful ap- 
pearance. The ancients have defcribed a buffoon bird, but there 

T tt CRANE KIND. 209 

are many rcafons to believe that theirs is not the Nuroidian 
crane. It comes from that country from whence it has taken 
its name. 


Of the Heron and its Varieties. 

BIRDS of the crane, the ftork, and the heron kind, bear a 
very ftrong affinity to each other; and their differences are 
not eafily difcernible. As for the crane and the flork, they dif- 
fer rather in their nature and internal conformation than in their 
external figure; but frill, they may be known afunder, as well 
by their colour as by the ftork's claws, which are very peculiar, 
and more refembling a man's nails than the claws of a bird. 
The heron may be diftinguifhed from both, as well by its fize, 
which is much lefs, as by its bill, which in proportion is much 
longer, but particularly by the middle claw on each foot, which 
is toothed like a faw, for the better feizing and holding its flip- 
pery prey. Should other marks fail, however, there is an ana- 
tomical diftinclion, in which herons differ from all other birds; 
which is, that they have but one ccecum, and all other birds 
have two. 

Of this bird, Briftbn has enumerated not lefs than forty-fevea 
forts, all differing in their fize, figure, and plumage; and with 
talents adapted to their place of refidence, urjbeir peculiar pur- 
fuits. But, how various foevcr the heron Hd may be in their 
colours or their bills, the$dl feem poflefTed of the fame manners, 
and have but one character, of cowardice and rapacity, indolence, 
yet infatiable hunger. Other birds are found to grow fat by an 
abundant fupply of food ; but thefe, though exceffively deftruc- 
tive and voracious, are ever found to have lean arid carrion 
bodies, as if not even plenty were fufficient for their fupport. 

The common heron is remarkably light, in proportion to its 
bulk, fcarce weighing three pounds and a half, yet it extends v 
VOL. III. D d 


breadth of wing, which is five feet from tip to tip. Its bill Is 
very long, being five inches from the point to the bafe ; its claws 
are long, fharp, and the middlemoft toothed like a faw. Yet 
thus armed as it appears for war, it is indolent and cowardly, 
and even flies at the approach of a fparrow-hawk. It was 
once the amufement of the great to purfue this timorous crea- 
ture with the falcon ; and heron-hawking was fo favourite a 
diverfion among our anceflors, that laws were enacted for the 
prefervation of the fpecies ; and the perfon who deflroyed their 
eggs was liable to a penalty of twenty (hillings for each offence. 

At prefent, however, the defects of the ill-judged policy of our 
anceflors is felt by their poflerity; for, as the amufement of 
hawking has given place to the more ufeful method of flocking 
fifh-ponds, the heron is now become a moft formidable enemy. 
Of all other birds, this commits the greatefl de variation in frefh 
waters ; and there is fcarce a fifh, though ever fo large, that he 
will not ftrike at and wound, though unable to carry it away. 
But the fmaller fry are his chief fubfiflence ; thefe, purfued by 
their larger fellows of the deep, are obliged to take refuge in 
fhallow waters, where they find the heron a flill more formida- 
ble enemy. His method is to wade as far as he can go into the 
Water, and there patiently wait the approach of his prey, which, 
when it comes within fight, he darts upon with inevitable aim. 
In this manner he is found to deflroy more in a week, than an 
otter in three months. " I have feen an heron," fays Willoughby, 
*' that had been (hot, that had feventeen carps in his belly at 
once, which he will digeft in fix or feven hours, and then to fifh- 
ing again. I h*e feen a carp," continues he, "taken out of a 
heron's belly, ni^Mnches and an hai^ong. Several gentlemen 
who kept tame herons, to try what quantity one of them would 
eat in a day, have put feveral fmaller roach and dace in a. tub; 
and they have found him eat fifty in a day, one day with another. 
f n this manner, a fingle heron will deftroy fifteen thoufand carp 
in a fingle half year." 

So great are the digeftive powers of this frefh \vater tyrant, 
and fo detrimental to thofe who flock ponds with fifh. In gene- 
ral, he is feen taking his gloomy fland by the lake fide, as if 


meditating mifchief, motionlefs and gorged with plunder. His 
ufual attitude on this occafion, is to fink his long neck between 
his fhoulders, and keep his head turned on one fide, as if eying 
the pool more intently, When the call of hunger returns, the 
toil of an hour or two is generally fufficient to fill his capacious 
ftomach ; and he retires long before night to his retreat in the 
woods. Early in the morning, however, he is feen afiiduous at 
his ufual occupation. 

But though, in feafons of fine weather, the heron can always 
find a plentiful fupply; in cold or ftormy feafons, his prey is no 
longer within reach : the fifh that before came into the {hallow 
water now keep in the deep, as they find it to be the warmen: 
fituation. Frogs and lizards alfofeldom venture from their lurk- 
ing places ; and the heron is obliged to fupport himfelf upon 
his long habits of patience, and even to take up with the weeds 
that grow upon the water. At thofe times he contracts a con- 
fumptive difpofition, which fucceeding plenty is not able to 
remove ; fo that the meagre glutton fpends his time between 
want and riot, and feels alternately the extremes of famine 
and excefs. Hence, notwithftanding the care with which he 
takes his prey, and the amazing quantity he devours, the he- 
ron is always lean and emaciated ; and though his crop be ufually 
found full, yet his flefh is fcarce fufficient to cover the bones. 

The heron ufually takes his prey by wading into the water, 
yet it muft not be fuppofed that he does not alfo take it upon the 
wing. In fact, much of his fiming is performed in this man- 
ner ; but he never hovers over deep waters, as there his prey is 
enabled to efcape him by finking to the bottom. In mallow 
places he darts with more certainty; for though the fiili at fight 
of its enemy inftantly defcends, yet the heron, with its long bill 
and legs, inftantly pins it to the bottom, and thus feizes it fe- 
curely. In this manner, after having been feen with his Jong 
neck for above a minute under water, he rifes upon the wing, 
with a trout or an eel ftruggling in his bill to get free. The 
greedy bird, however, flies to the more, fcarce gives it time to 
expire, but fwallows it whole, and then returns to fiming as 


As this bird does incredible mifchief to ponds newly flocked, 
Willoughby has given a receipt for taking him. " Having 
found his haimt, get three or four fmall roach or dace, and hav- 
ing provided a flrong hook witha wire to it, this is drawn juft 
within fide the fkin of the fifh, beginning without fide the gills 
and running it to the tail, by which the fifh will not be killed, 
but continue for five or fix days alive. Then having a flrong 
line made of filk and wire, about two yards and a half long, it 
is tied to a {tone at one end, the fifti with the hook being fuffer- 
ed to fwirn about at the other. This being properly difpofed in 
ihallow water, the heron will feize upon the rim to its own def- 
lection. From this method we may learn, that the fifh muft 
be alive, otherwife the heron will not touch them, and that this 
bird, as well as all thofe that feed upon fifh, muft be its own 
caterer; for they will not prey upon fuch as die naturally, or 
are killed by others before them." 

Though this bird lives chiefly among pools and marfhes, yet 
its nefl is built on the tops of thehighcft trees, and fometimes 
on cliffs hanging over the fea. They are never in flocks when 
they fifh, committing their depredations in folitude and filence ; 
but in making their nefls they love each others fociety; and they 
are feen, like rooks, building in company with flocks of their 
kind. Their nefts are made of flicks, and lined with wool j and 
the female lays four large eggs, of a pale green colour. The 
obfervable indolence of their nature, however, is not lefs feen in 
their neflling than in their habits of depredation. Nothin^ is 
more certain, and I have feen it an hundred times, than that they 
will not be at the trouble of building a nefl when they can get one 
made by the rook, or dtfcrted by the owl, already provided for 
them. This they ufually enlarge and line within, driving off 
the original poffefTors, fhould they happen to renew their fruitlefs 

The French feem to have availed themfelves of the indolence 
of this bird in making its nefl ; and they actually provide a 
place with materials fitted for their neflling, which they call 
heronries. The heron, which with us is totally unfit for the 
table, is more fought for in France, where the flcfh of the young 


nes is in particular eftimation. To obtain this, the natives 
raife up fome high fheds along fome fifhy ftream ; and furnifh- 
ing them with materials for the herons to neftle with, thefe birds 
build and breed there in great abundance. As foon as the young 
ones are fuppofed to be fit, the owner of the heronry comes, as 
we do into a pigeon-houfe, and carries off fuch as are proper for 
easing ;, and thefe are fold for a very good price to the neigh- 
bouring gentry. " Thefe arc a delicacy which," as my author 
fays, " the French are very fond of, but which ftrangers have 
not yet been taught to relifh as they ought." Neverthelefs, it 
was formerly much efteemed as a food in England, and made a 
favourite difh at great tables. It was then faid, that the flefh of 
a heron was a difh for a king ; at prefent, nothing about the 
houfe will touch it but a cat. 

With us, therefore, as the heron, both old and young, is thought 
deteftable eating, we feldom trouble thefe animal sin their heights, 
which are, for the moft part, fufficiently inacceffible. Their 
nefts are often found in great numbers in the middle of large 
forefts, and in fome groves nearer home, where the owners have 
a predilection for the bird, and do not choofc to drive it from its 
accuftomed habitations. It is certain, that by their cries, their 
expanfive wings, their bulk, and wavy motion, they add no 
finall folemnity to the forefr, and give a pleafmg variety to a 
finifhed improvement. 

When the young are excluded, as they are numerous-, vora- 
cious, and importunate, the old ones are for ever upon the wing 
to provide them with abundance. The quantity of fifti they 
take upon this occafion is amazing, and their fizc is not lefs to 
be wondered at. I remember a heron's neft that was built near 
a fchool-houfe ; the boys, with their ufual appetite for mifchief, 
climbed up, took down the young ones, fewed up the vent, and 
laid them in the neft as before. The pain the poor little animals 
felt from the operation increafed their cries ; and this but ferved 
to increafe the diligence of the old ones in enlarging their fupply. 
Thus they heaped the neft with various forts of fifh and the bed 
pf their kind, and as their young fcreamed, they flew off for 


more. The boys gathered up the fifh which the young ones 
were incapable of eating, till the old ones at laft quitted their neft, 
and gave up their brood, whofe appetites they found it impof- 
fible to fatisfy. 

The heron is faid to be a very long-lived bird ; by Mr. Kef- 
ler's account it may exceed fixty years ; and by a recent in- 
ftance of one that was taken in Holland, by an hawk belonging 
to the fiadtholder, its longevity is again confirmed, the bird hav- 
ing a filver plate fattened to one leg, with an infcription, im- 
porting that it had been ftruck by the elector of Cologne's hawks 
thirty-five years before. 


Of the Bittern or Mire-drum. 

THOSE who have walked in an evening, by the fedgy 
fides of unfrequented rivers, inuft remember a variety of 
notes, from different water ^fowl ; the loud fcream of the wild 
goofe, the croaking of the mallard, the whining of the lapwing, 
and the tremulous neighing of the jack-fnipe. But of all thofe 
founds, there is none fo difmally hollow as the booming of the 
bittern. It is impoftible for words to give thofe who have not 
heard this evening-call an adequate idea of its folemriity. It is 
like the interrupted bellowing of a bull, but hollo wer and louder, 
and is heard at a mile's diftance, as if ifTuing from fome formida- 
ble being that refided at the bottom of the waters. 

The bird, however, that produces this terrifying found, is not 
fo big as an heron, with a weaker bill, and not above four inches 
long. It differs from the heron chiefly in its colour, which is in 
general of a palifh yellow, fpotted and barred with black. Its 
windpipe is fitted to produce the found, for which it is remark^ 
able; the lower part of it dividing into the lungs, is fupplied 
with a thin loofe membrane, that can be filled with a large body 
of air, and exploded at pleafure. Thefe bellowing explofions 


are chiefly heard from the beginning of fpring to the end of au- 
tumn ; and, however awful they may feem to us, are the calls 
to courtfhip, or of connubial felicity. 

From the loudnefs and folemnity of the note, many have been 
led to fuppofe, that the bird made ufe of external inftruments to 
produce it ; and, that fo fmail a body could never ejea fuch a 
quantity of tone. The common people are of opinion, that it 
thrufts its bill into a reed, that ferves as a pipe for (welling the 
note above its natural pitch ; while others, and in this number 
we find Thomfon the poet, imagine, that the bittern puts its head 
under water, and then violently blowing produces its boomings. 
The fa& is, that the bird is fufficiently provided by nature for 
this call ; and it is often heard, where there are neither reeds nor^ 
waters to affift its fonorous invitation. 

It hides in the fedges by day, and begins its call in the eve- 
ning, booming fix or eight times, and then difcontinuing for ten 
or twenty minutes to renew the fame found. This is a call it 
never gives but when undifturbed and at liberty. When its re- 
treats among the fedges are invaded, when it dreads or expedls 
the approach of an enemy, it is then perfe&ly filent. This call 
it has never been heard to utter, when taken or brought up in 
domeftic captivity ; it continues under the controul of man, a 
mute, forlorn bird, equally incapable of attachment or inftruc- 
tion. But, though its boomings are always performed in foli- 
tude, it ha a fcream which is generally heard upon the feizing 
its prey, and which is fometimes extorted by fear. 

This bird, though of the heron kind, is yet neither fo deftruc- 
tive nor fo voracious. It is a retired, timorous animal, conceal- 
ing itielf in the midft of reeds and marfhy places, and living 
upon frogs, infects, and vegetables ; and though fo nearly re- 
fembling the heron in figure, yet differing much in manners and 
appetites. As the heron builds on the tops of the higheft trees, 
the bittern lays its neft in a fedgy margin, or amidft a tuft of 
rufhes. The heron builds with {ticks and wool; the bittern 
compofes its fimpler habitation of fedges, the leaves of water- 
plants, and dry rufhes. The heron lays four eggs ; the bittern 
generally feven or eight, of an am-green colour. The heron 


feeds its young for many days ; the bittern in three days leads 
its little ones to their food. In mort, the heron is lean and cada- 
verous, fubfifting chiefly upon animal food ; the bittern is plump 
and flemy, as it feeds upon vegetables, when more nourifliing 
food is wanting. 

It cannot be, therefore, from its voracious appetites, but its 
hollow boom, that the bittern is held in fuch dcteftation by the 
vulgar. I remember, in the place where I was a boy, with 
what terror this bird's note affected the whole village ; they 
confidered it as the prefage of fome fad event ; and generally 
found or made one to fucceed it. I do not fpeak ludicroufly ; but, 
if any perfon in the neighbourhood died, they fuppofed it could 
not be otherwife, for the night-raven had foretold it ; but if no- 
body happened to die, the death of a cow or a fheep gave com- 
pletion to the prophecy. 

Whatever terror it may infpire among the fimple, its flefh is 
greatly in efteem among the luxurious. For this reafon, it is 
as eagerly fought after by the fowler, as it is fhunned by the 
peafant ; and as it is a heavy rifing, flow- winged bird, it does 
not often efcape him. Indeed, it feldom rifes, but when almoft 
trod upon ; and feems to ftek protection, rather from conceal- 
ment than flight. At the latter end of autumn, however, in 
the evening, its wonted indolence appears to forfake it. It is 
then feen rifing in a fpiral afcent till it is quite loft from the 
view, making at the fame time a fmgular noife, very different 
from its former boomings. Thus the fame animal is often feen 
to affume different defircs ; and while the Latins have given the 
bittern the name of the ftar-reaching bird (or the Jtellaris) the 
Greeks, taking its character from its more conftant habits, have 
afiven it the title of the OKV*, or the lazy. 




Of the Spoonbill or Shoveler. 

S we proceed in our defcription of the crane kind, birds of 
peculiar forms offer, not entirely like the crane, and yet 
not fo far different as to rank more properly with any other clafs. 
Where the long neck and {lilt-like legs of the crane are found, 
they make too ftriking a refemblance, not tcKadmit fuch birds 
of the number; and though the bill, or even the toes fhould en- 
tirely differ, yet the outlines of the figure, and the natural ha- 
bits and difpofitions being the fame, thefe are fufncient to mark 
their place in the general group of nature. 

The fpoonbill is one of thofe birds which differs a good deal 
from the crane, yet approaches this clafs more than any other. 
The body is more bulky for its height, and the bill is very dif- 
ferently formed from that of any other bird whatever. Yet ftill 
it is a comparatively tall bird : it feeds among waters ; its toes 
are divided, and it feems topoffefs the natural difpofitions of the 
crane. The European fpoonbill is of about the bulk of a crane; 
but as the one is above four feet high, the other is not more than 
three feet three inches. The common colour of thofe of Europe, 
is a dirty white; but thofe of America are of a beautiful rofe 
colour, or a delightful crimfon. Beauty of plumage feems to be 
the prerogative of all birds of that continent; and we here fee 
the moil fplendid tints, beftowed on a bird, whofe figure is fuf- 
ficient tp deftroy the effects of its colouring : for its bill is fo 
oddly fafhioned, and its eyes fo ftupidly flaring, that its fine fea- 
thers only tend to add fplendor to deformity. The bill, which 
in this bird is fo very particular, is about feven inches long, and 
running out broad at the end, as its name juftly ferves to denote; 
it is there about an inch and an half wide. This ftrangely- 
fafhioned inftrument, in fome is black ; in others of a light grey ; 
and in thofe of America, it is of a red colour, like the reft of tho 
body. All round the upper chap, there runs a kind of rim, with 

VOL. III. E e 


which it covers that beneath : and as for the reft, its cheeks, and 
its throat, are without feathers, and covered with a black fkin. 

A bird fo oddly famioned, might be expected to pofTefs fome 
very peculiar appetites ; but the fpoonbill feems to lead a life 
entirely refembling all thofe of the crane kind ; and nature, 
when fhe made the bill of this bird fo very broad, feems rather 
to have fported with its form, than to aim at any final caufe for 
which to adapt it. In fact, it is but a poor philofophy to afcribe 
every capricious variety in nature to fome falutary purpofe: in 
fuch folutions we only impofe upon each other; and often wil- 
fully contradict our own belief. There muft be imperfections 
in every being, as well as capacities of enjoyment. Between 
both, the animal leads a life of moderate felicity; in part mak- 
ing life of its many natural advantages, and in part neccflarily 
conforming to the imperfections of its figure. 

The flioveler chiefly feeds upon frogs, toads and ferpents ; of 
which, particularly at the Cape of Good Hope, they deftroy 
great numbers. The inhabitants of that country hold them in 
as much efteern as the ancient Egyptians did their bird ibis : the 
fhoveler runs tamely about their houfes ; and they are content 
with its fociety, as a ufeful though an homely companion. They 
are never killed: and indeed they are good for nothing when 
they are dead, for the flefh is unfit to be eaten. 

This bird breeds in Europe, in company with the heron, in 
high trees; and in a neft formed of the fame materials. Wil- 
loughby tells us, that in a certain grove, at a village called Se- 
ven Huys, near Leyden, they build and breed yearly in great 
numbers. In this grove alfo, the heron, the bittern, the cormo- 
rant, and the fhag, have taken up their refidence, and annu- 
ally bring forth their young together. Here the crane kind 
feem to have formed their general rendezvous ; and, as the in- 
habitants fay, every fort of bird has its feveral quarter, where 
none but their own tribe are permitted to refide. Of this grove 
the peafants of the country, make good profit. When the young 
ones are ripe, thofe that farm the grove, with a hook at the end 
of a long pole, catch hold of the bough on which the neft is built, 



and {hake out the young ones; but fometimes the neft and all 
tumble down together. 

The fhoveler lays from three to five eggs; white, and pow- 
dered with a few fanguine or pale fpots. We fometimes fee, in 
the cabinets of the curious, the bills of American fhovelers, 
twice as big and as long as thofe of the common kind among us;, 
but thefe birds have not yet made their way into Europe. 


The Flamingo. 

THE flamingo has the jufteft right to be placed among 
cranes; and though, it happens to be web-footed, like 
birds of the goofe kind, yet its height, figure, and appetites, en- 
tirely remove it from that groveling clafs of animals. With a 
longer neck and legs than any other of the crane kind, it feeks 
its food by wading among waters ; and only differs from all of 
this tribe in the manner of feizing its prey; for as the heron 
makes ufe of its claws, the flamingo ufes only its bill, which is 
ftrong and thick for the purpofe, the ctaws being ufelefs, as they 
are feeble, and webbed like thofe of water-fowl. 

The flamingo is the moft remarkable of all the crane kind, 
the talleft, bulkieft, and the moft beautiful. The body, which 
is of a beautiful fcarlet, is no bigger than that of a fwan ; but its 
legs and neck are of fuch an extraordinary length, that when it 
ftands erect, it is fix feet fix inches high. Its wings, extended, 
are five feet fix inches from tip to tip; and it is four feet eight 
inches from tip to tail. The head is round and fmall, with a 
large bill, feven inches long, partly red, partly black, and crook- 
ed like a bow. The legs and thighs, which are not much thicker 
than a man's finger, are about two feet eight inches high ; and 
its neck near three feet long. The feet are not furnifhed with 
iharp claws, as in others of the crane kind; but feeble, and 
finited by membranes, as in thofe of the goofe. Of what ufe 


thefe membranes are, does not appear, as the bird is never feen 
fwimming, its legs and thighs being fufficient for bearing it in 
thofe depths where it feeks for prey. 

This extraordinary bird is now chiefly found in America, but 
was once known on all the coafts of Europe. Its beauty, its 
fize, and the peculiar delicacy of its flei'h, have been fuch temp- 
tations to deftroy or take it, that it has long fmce defcrted the 
fhores frequented by man, and taken refuge in countries that are 
as yet but thinly peopled. In thofe defert regions, the flamingos 
live in a ftate of fociety, and under a better polity than any other 
of the feathered creation. 

When the Europeans firft came to America, and coafled 
down along the African*fhores, they found the flamingos on fe- 
veral mores on either continent, gentle and no way diftruftful 
of mankind*. They had long been ufed to fecurity, in the ex- 
tenfive folitudes they had chofen ; and knew no enemies, but thofe 
they could very well evade or oppofe. The Negroes and the 
native Americans, were pofTefled of but few deftruclive arts for 
killing them at a diftance ; and when the bird perceived the ar- 
row, it well knew how to avoid it. But it was otherwife when 
the Europeans firft came among them : the failors, not confider- 
ing that the clread of fire-arms was totally unknown in that 
part of the world, gave the flamingo the character of a foolifh 
bird, that fuffered itfelf to be approached and mot at. When 
the fowler had killed one, the reft of the flock, far from attempt- 
ing to fly, only regarded the fall of their companion in a kind of 
fixed aftonifhment: another and another fliot was difcharged ; 
and thus the fowler often levelled the whole flock, before one of 
them began to think of efcaping. 

But at prefent it is very different in that part of the world ; 
and the flamingo is not only one of the fcarceft but of the fhyeft 
birds in the world, and the moft difficult of approach. They 
chiefly keep near the mod deferted and inhofpitable mores; near 
fait watej lakes and fwarnpy iflands. They come down to the 
banks of rivers by day; and often retire to the inland, mouu- 

* Albin's New Hiftory of Birds. 


tainous parts of the country at the approach of night. When 
feen by mariners in the day, they always appear drawn up in a 
long clofe line of two or three hundred together ; and as Dam- 
pier tells us, prefent, at the dirtance of half a mile, the exaft 
reprefentation of a long brick wall. Their rank, however, is 
broken when they feek for food ; but they always appoint one of 
the number as a watch, whofe only employment is to obferve 
and give notice of danger, while the reft are feeding. As foon 
as this trufty centinel perceives the remoteft appearance of dan- 
ger, he gives a loud fcream, with a voice as fhrill as a trumpet, 
and inftantly the whole cohort are upon the wins;. They feed 
in fiience; but, upon this occafion, all the flock are in one 
chorus, and fill the air with intolerable fcreamings. 

From this it appears that the flamingos are very difficult to 
be approached at prefent, and that they avoid mankind with the 
moft cautious timidity; however, it is not from any antipathy 
to man that they fhun his fociety; for in fome villages, as we 
are affured by Labat, along the coaft of Africa, the flamingos 
come in great numbers to make their refidence among the na- 
tives. There they aflemble by thoufands, perched on the trees, 
within and about the village ; and are fo very clamorous, that 
the found is heard at near a mile diftance. The Negroes are 
fond of their company : and confider their fociety as a gift of 
Heaven, as a protection from accidental evils. The French, 
who are admitted to this part of the coait, cannot, without fome 
degree of difcontent, fee fuch a quantity of game untouched, and 
rendered ufclefs by the fuperftition of the natives : they now and 
then privately fhoot fome of them, when at a convenient diftance 
from the village, and hide them in the long grafs if they perceive 
any of the Negroes approaching ; for they would probably ftand 
a chance of being ill treated, if the blacks difcovered their facred 
birds were thus unmercifully treated. 

Sometimes, in their wild flate, they are often fhot by mari- 
ners ; and their young, which run excefiively fail, are often taken. 
Labat has frequently taken them with nets, properly extended 
round the places they breed in. When their long legs are en- 
tangled in the mefhes, they are then unqualified to make their 

222 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

efcape : but they flill continue to combat with their deftroyer : 
and the old ones, though fazed by the head, will fcratch with 
their claws; and thefe, though feemingly inofFenfive, very often 
do mifchief. When they are fairly difcngaged from the net, they 
neverthelefs preferve their natural ferocity; they rcfufe all nou- 
rifhment; they peck arid combat with their claws at every op- 
portunity. The fowler is therefore under the neceffity of deftroy- 
ing them, when taken; as they would only pire and die, if left 
to themfelves in captivity. The efh of the old ones is black 
and hard ; though, Dampier fays, well tafted: that of the young 
ones is flill better. But, of all other delicacies, the flamingo's 
tongue is the mod celebrated. A di(h of flamingo's tongues, 
fays our author, is a feafl for an emperor. In fat, the Roman 
emperors confidered them as the higheft luxury; and we have 
an account of one of them, who procured fifteen hundred flamin- 
go's tongues to be ferved up in a fmgle difh. The tongue of 
this bird, which is fo much fought after, is a good deal larger 
than that of any other bird whatever. The bill of the flamingo 
is like a large black box, of an irregular figure, and filled with 
a tongue which is black and griftly ; but what peculiar flavour 
it may poflefs, I leave to be determined by fuch as underftand 
good eating better than I do. It is probable, that the beauty 
and fcarcity of the bird, might be the firft inducements to ftudi- 
ous gluttony to fix upon its tongue as meat for the table. What 
Dampier fays of the goodnefs of its flefh, cannot fo well be re- 
lied on; for Dampier was often hungry, and thought any thing 
good that could be eaten : he avers, indeed, with Labat, that the 
flefh is black, tough and fifhy ; fo that we can hardly give him 
credit, when he aflerts, that its flefh can be formed into a luxu- 
rious entertainment. 

Thefe birds, as was faid, always go in flocks together; and 
they move in rank, in the manner of cranes. They are fome- 
times feen, at the break of day, flying down in great numbers 
from the mountains, and conducting each other, with a trumpet 
cry, that founds like the word tococo, from whence the favages 
of Canada have given them the name. In their flight, they ap- 
pear to great advantage : for they then feem of as bright a red as 


a burning coal. When theydifpofe themfelves to feed, their cry 
ccafes ; and then they difperfe over a whole marfh in filence and 
afiiduity. Their manner of feeding is very fingular: the bird 
thrufts down its head, fo that the upper convex fide of the bill 
fhall only touch the ground ; and in this pofition the animal ap- 
pears, as it were, {landing upon its head. In this manner it 
paddles and moves the bill about, and feizes whatever fifh or in- 
fect happens to offer. For this purpofe, the upper chap is notched 
at the edges, fo as to hold its prey with greater fecurity. Catelby, 
however, gives a different account of their feeding. According 
to him, they thus place the upper chap undermoft, and fo work 
about, in order to pick up a feed from the bottom of the water, 
that refembles millet : but as in picking up this, they neceffa- 
rily alfo fuck in a great quantity of mud, their bill is toothed at 
the edges, in fuch a manner as to let out the mud, while they 
f wallow the grain. 

Their time of breeding is according to the climate in which 
they refide: in North America, they breed in ourfummer; on 
the other fide the line they take the moft favourable feafon of the 
year. They build their nefts in extenfive marmes, and where 
they are in no danger of a furprize. The neft is not lefs curi- 
ous than the animal that builds it; it is raifed from thefurface 
of the pool about a foot and a half, formed of mud, fcraped up 
together, and hardened by the fun, or the heat of the bird's body : 
it refembles a truncated cone, or one of the pots which we fee 
placed on chimnies ; on the top it is hollowed out to the fhape 
of the bird, and in that cavity the female lays her eggs, without 
any lining but the well-cemented mud that forms the fides of 
the building. She always lays two eggs, and no more ; and, 
as her legs are immoderately long, flie ftraddles on the neft, 
while her legs hang down, one on each fide, into the water. 

The young ones are a long while before they are able to fly; 
but they run with amazing fwiftnefs. They are fometimes 
caught; and, very different from the old ones, fuffer themfelves 
to be carried home, and are tamed very eafily. In five or fix 
days they become familiar, eat out of the hand, and drink a fur- 
prizing quantity of fea water. But though they are eafily ren- 



dered domefHc, they are not reared without the greateft diffi- 
culty; for they generally pine away, for want of their natural 
fupplies, and die in a fhort time. When they are yet young, 
their colours are very different from thofe lively tints they acquire 
with age. In their firfr. year, they are covered with plumage of 
a white colour, mixed v/ith grey-; in the fecond year the whole 
body is white, with here and there a flight tint of fcarlet ; and 
the great covert feathers of the wings are black : the third year 
the bird acquires all its beauty; the plumage of the whole body 
is fcarlet, except fome of the feathers in the wings, that Hill 
retain their fable hue. Of thefe beautiful plumes, the favages 
make various ornaments ; and the bird is fometimes fkinned bv 
the Europeans, to make muffs. But thefe have diminifhed in 
their price, fmce v/e have obtained the art of dying feathers of 
the brighten: fcarlet. 


Of the Avofeita or Scooper^ and the Corrira or Runner. 

THE extraordinary fhape of the avofetta's bill might in- 
cline us to wifh for its hiflory ; and yet in that we arc 
not able to indulge the reader. Natural hiflorians have hitherto, 
ambitious monarchs, fhewna greater fondnefs for extending 
their dominions, than cultivating what they poflefs. While they 
have been labouring to add new varieties to their catalogues, 
they have neglected to ftudy the hiftory of animals already 

The avofetta is chiefly found in Italy, and now and then 
comes over into England. It is about the fize of a pigeon, is 
a pretty upright bird, and has extremely long legs for its fize. 
But the moft extraordinary part of its figure, and that by which 
it may be diftinguiftied from all others of the feathered tribe, is 
the bill, which turns up like a hook, in an oppofite direction 
to that of the hawk or the parrot. This extraordinary bill is 

THE GRANE Klftt), 225 

, flat, (harp and flexible at the end, and about three inches 
and an half long. From its being bare a long way above the knee., 
it appears that it lives and wades in the waters. It has a chirping, 
pert note, as we are told; but with its other habits we are en- 
tirely unacquainted. I have placed it, from its flender figure, 
among the cranes ; although it is web-footed, like the duck. It 
is one of thofe birds of whofe hiftory We are yet in expectation. 

To this bird of the crane kind, fo little knownj I will add 
another^ ftill lefs known ; the corrira or runner, of Aldrovandus. 
All we are told of it is, that it has the longeft legs of all web- 
footed fowls, except the flamingo and avofetta; that the bill is 
ftraight, yellow, and black at the ends ; that the pupils of the 
eyes are furrounded with two circles^ one of which is bay, and 
the other white ; below, near the belly* it is whitim ; the tail, 
with two white feathers, black at the extremities ; and that the 
upper part of the body is of the colour of nifty iron. It is thus 
that we are obliged to fubftitute dry defcription for inftru&ive 
hiftory ; and employ words, to exprefs thofe fhadings of colour 
which the pencil alone can convey. 


Of Small Birds of the Crane KM, with the Thighs partly 
bare of Feathers. 

AS I have taken my diftinc~lions, rather from the general 
form and manners of birds, than from their minuter, 
though perhaps more precife difcrirmnations, it will not be ex- 
pected that I fhould here enter into a particular hiftory of a nu- 
merous tribe of birds, whofe manners and forms are fo very 
much alike. Of many of them, we have fcarce any account in 
our hiftorians, but tedious defcriptions of their dimenfions, and 
the colour of their plumage ; and of the reft, the hiftory of one is 
fo much that of all, that it is but the fame account repeated to 
a moft difgufting reiteration. I will therefore groupe them into 
VOL. III. F f 


one general draught ; in which the more eminent, or the moft 
\vhimfical, will naturally ftand forward on the canvas. 

In this groupe, we find an extenfive tribe of native birds,, 
with their varieties and affinities ; and we might add an hun- 
dred others, of diftant climates, of which we know little more 
than the colour and the name. In this lift is exhibited the cur- 
lew, a bird of about the fize of a duck, with a bill four inches 
long : the woodcock, about the fize of a pigeon, with a bill 
three inches long : the godwit, of the fame fize ; the bill four 
inches: the green fhank, longer legged; the bill two inches 
and an half: the red fhank, differing in the colour of its feet 
from the former; the fnipe, lefs by half, with a bill three inches. 
Then with fhorter bills the ruff, with a collar of feathers 
round the neck of the male ; the knot, the fandpiper, the fan- 
(lerlmg, the dunlin, the purre and the flint. To conclude; 
with bills very fhort the lapwing, the green plover, the grey 
plover, the dottrel, the turnftone, and the fea-lark. Thefe, with 
their affinities, are properly natives or vifitants of this country ; 
and are difperfed along our fhores, rivers, and watry grounds. 
Taking in the birds of this kind, belonging to other countries, 
the lift would be very widely extended ; and the whole of this 
clafs,'as defcribcd by BrifTon, would amount to near an hundred. 

All thefe birds polTefs many marks in common; though foms 
have peculiarities that deferve regard. All thefe birds are bare 
of feathers above the knee, or above the heel, as fome naturalifts 
choofe to exprefs it. In fact, that part which I call the knee } 
if compared with the legs cf mankind, is analogous to the heel : 
but, as it is commonly conceived other wife, 1 have conformed 
10 the general apprehenfion. I fay, therefore, that all thefe birds 
are bare of feathers above the knee; and in fjins they are want- 
ing half way up the thigh. The nudity in that part, is parity 
natural, and partly produced by all birds of this kind habitually 
wading in water. The older the bird, the barer are its thighs ; 
yet even the young ones have not the fame downy covering 
reaching fo low as the birds of any other clafs. Such a covering 
there would rather be prejudicial, as being continually liable to 
get wet in the. water. 


As thefe birds are ufually employed rather in running than in 
flying, and as their food lies entirely upon the ground, and not on 
trees, or in the air, fo they run with great fwiftnefs for their fize, 
and the length of their legs affifts their velocity. But as, in feck- 
ing their food, they are often ohliged to change their ftation ; fo 
alfo are they equally fwift of wing, and traverfe immenfe traces 
of country without much fatigue. 

It has been thought by fome, that a part of this clafs lived up- 
on an oily flime, found in the bottom of ditches and of weedy 
pools; they were thence termed, by Willoughby, mud-fuckers. 
But later difcoveries have (hewn that, in thefe places, they hunt 
for the caterpillars and worms of infects. From hence, therefore, 
we may generally afiert, that all birds of this clafs live upon 
animals of one kind or another. The long billed birds fuck up 
worms and infects from the bottom ; thofe furnifhed with fliorter 
bills, pick up fuch infects as lie nearer the furface of the meadow, 
or among the fands on the fea-fhore. 

Thus the curlew, the woodcock, and the fnipe, are ever 
feen in plafhy breaks, and under covered hedges, afliduoufly em- 
ployed in feeking out infe&s in their worm flate ; and it feems 
from their fatnefs, that they find a plentiful fupply. Nature, 
indeed, has furnifhed them with very convenient inftruments for 
procuring their food. Their bills are made fufficiently long for 
Marching ; but ftill more, they are endowed with an exquifite 
fenfibility at the point, for feeling their provifion. They are 
furniflied with no lefs than three pair of nerves, equal almoft to 
the optic nerves in thicknefs : which pafs from the roof of the 
mouth, and run along the upper chap to the point. 

Nor are thofe birds with fhorter bills, and deftitute of fuch 
convenient inftruments, without a proper provifion made for 
their fubfiftence. The lapwing, the fand-piper, and red-fhank, 
run with furprizing rapidity along the furfaca of the marfh or 
the fea-more, quarter their ground with great dexterity, and 
leave nothing of the infect kind that happens to lie on the furface. 
Thefe, however, are neither fo fat nor fo delicate as the former; 
as they are obliged to toil more for a fubfiftence, they are eafily 


fatisfied with whatever offers ; and their fle/h often contracts a 
relifh from what has been their lateft, or their principal food. 

Moft of the birds formerly defcribed, have ftated feafons for 
feeding and reft: the eagle kind prowl by day, and at evening 
repofe; the owl by night, and keeps unfeen in the day-time. 
But thefe birds, of the crane kind, feem at all hours employed : 
they are feldqm at reft by day ; and, during the whole night 
feafon, every meadow and marfh refounds with their different 
calls, to courtmip or to food. This feems to be the time when 
they leaft fear interruption from man ; aad though they fly at 
all times, yet, at this feafon, they appear more afliduoufly em- 
ployed, both in providing for their prefent fupport, and continu- 
ing that of pofterity. This is ufually the feafon when the in- 
fidious fowler fteals in upon their occupations, and fills the whole 
meadow with terror and deftruclion. 

As all of this kind live entirely in waters, and among watery 
places, they feem provided by nature with a warmth of confti- 
tution to fit them for that cold element. They refide, by choice, 
in the coldeft climates ; and as other birds migrate here in our 
jummer, their migrations hither are moftly in the winter. Even 
thofe that refide among us the whole feafon, retire in fummer 
to the tops of our bleakeft mountains ; where they breed, and 
bring down their young, when the cold weather fets in. 

Moft of them, however, migrate, and retire to the polar re- 
gions ; as thofe that remain behind in the mountains, and keep 
with us during fummer, bear no proportion to the quantity 
which in winter haunt our marfhes and low grounds. The 
ihipe fometimes builds here; and the neft of the curlew is fome- 
times found in the plafhcs of our hills ; but the number of thefe 
is very fmall ; and it is moft probable, that they are only fome 
ftragglers, who, not having ftrength or courage fufficient for 
the general voyage, take up from neceffity their habitation here. 

In general, during the fummer, this whole clafs choofe the 
coideft countries to retire to, or the coldeft and the moifteft part 
of ours to breed in. The curlew, the woodcock, the fnipe, the 
gqdwit, the gr-ey plover, the knot and turnftone, are ravher the 


guefts than the natives of this ifland. They vifit us in the be- 
ginning of winter, and forfake us in the fpring. They then retire 
to the mountains of Sweden, Poland, Pruffia, and Lapland, to 
breed. Our country, during the fummer feafon, becomes unin- 
habitable to them. The ground parched up by the heat; the 
fprings dried away; and the vermicular infects already upon the 
wing ; they have no means of fubfifting. Their weak and de- 
licately pointed bills are unfit to dig into a refifting foil ; and 
their prey is departed, though they were able to reach its retreats. 
Thus, that feafon when nature is faid to teem with life, and to 
put on her gayeft liveries, is to them an interval of fterility and 
famine. The coldeft mountains of the north, are then a preferable 
habitation; the marines there are never totally dried up; and 
the infects are in fuch abundance, that both above ground and 
underneath, the country fwarms with them. In fuch retreats, 
therefore, thefe birds would continue always; but that the frofts, 
when they fet in, have the fame effect upon the face of the land- 
fcape, as the heats of fummer. Every brook is iliffened into ice; 
all the earth is congealed into one folid mafs ; and the birds are 
obliged to forfake a region where they can no longer find fub- 

Such are our vifitants. With regard to thofe which keep 
with us continually, and breed here, they are neither fo delicate 
in their food, nor perhaps fo warm in their conftitutions. Ths 
lapwing, the ruff, the red-fhank, the fand-piper, the fea-pie, the 
Norfolk plover, and the fea-lark, breed in this country, and, for 
the moft part, refide here. In fummer they frequent fuch marilies 
as are not dried up in any part of the year ; the Eflex hundreds, 
and the fens of Lincolnfhire. There, in folitudes formed by 
furrounding marines, they breed and bring up their young. In 
winter they come down from their retreats, rendered uninhabi- 
table by the flooding of the waters ; and feek their food about 
our ditches and marfhy meadow-grounds. Yet even of this 
clafs, all are wanderers upon fome occafions ; and take wing to 
the northern climates, to breed and find fubfiftence. This hap- 
pens when our fummers are peculiarly dry; and when the fen- 
ny countries are not fufficiently watered to defend their retreats. 


But though this be the ufual courfe of nature, with refpedfc 
to thefe birds, they often break through the general habits t)f their 
kind ; and as the lapwing, the ruff, and the land-piper, are fome- 
time feen to alter their manners, and to migrate from hence, 
inflead of continuing to breed here ; fo we often find the wood- 
cock, the fnipc, and the curlew, refide with us during the whole 
ieafon, and breed their young in different parts of the country. 
In Calewood, about two miles from Tunbridge, as Mr. Pennant 
afiures us, fome woodcocks are feen to breed annually. The 
young have been fhot there in the beginning of Auguft ; and 
were as healthy and vigorous as they are with us in winter, 
though not fo well tarred. On the Alps, and other high moun- 
tains, fays Willoughby, the woodcock continues all fummer. 
I myfelf have flufhed them on the top of mount Jura, in June and 
July. The eggs are long, of a pale red colour, and flamed 
with deeper fpots and clouds. The nefts of the curlew and 
the fnipe are frequently found ; and forne of thefe perhaps never 
leave this ifland. 

It is thus that the fame habits are in fome meafure common 
to all ; but in neitling, and bringing up their young, one me- 
thod takes place univerfaliy. As they all run and feed upon 
the ground, fo they are all found to neftlc there. The number 
of eggs generally to be feen in every ned is from two to four ; 
never under, and very feldorn exceeding. The neft is made 
without any art; but the eggs are either laid in fome little de- 
prelfion of the earth, or on a few bents and long grafs that 
fcatcely prefer ve them from the moiflure below. Yet fuch is 
the heat of the body of thefe birds, that their time of incubation 
is ihorter than with any others of the fame fize. The mag- 
pie, for inftance, takes twenty-one days to hatch its young ; 
the lapwing takes but fourteen. Whether the animal oil, with 
which thefe birds abound, gives them this fuperior warmth, I 
cannot tell ; but there is no doubt of their quick incubation. 

In their feafons of courtmip, they pair as other birds; but not 
without violent contefts between the males, for the choice of 
the female. The lapwing and the plover are often feen to fight 
among themfelves ; but there is one little bird of this tribe, 


called the ruff, that has got the epithet of the fighter, merely 
from it? great perfeverance and animofity on thefe occafions. In 
the beginning of fpring, when thefe birds arrive among our 
marfhes, they areobferved to engage with defperate fury againft 
each other ; it is then that the fov/lers, feeing them intent on mu- 
tual deftru<5tion, fpread their nets over them, and take them in 
great numbers. Yet even in captivity their animofity ftitl conti- 
nues : the people that fat them up for fale, are obliged to fhut 
them up in clofe dark rooms ; for if they let ever fo little light in 
among them, the turbulent prifoners inftantly fall to fighting 
with each other, and never ceafe till each has killed its antagonift, 
efpecially, fays Willoughby, if any body ftands by. A fimilar 
animofity, though in a lefs degree, prompts all this tribe; but 
when they have paired, and begun to lay, their contentions are 
then over. 

The place thefe birds chiefly chufe to breed in, is in fome ifland 
furrounded with fedgy moors, where men feldom refort; and in 
fuch fituations I have often feen the ground fo ftrewed with eggs 
and nefts, that one could fcarce take a ftep without treading up- 
on fome of them. As foon as a ftranger intrudes upon thefe re- 
treats, the whole colony is up, an hundred different fcreams are 
heard from every quarter. The arts of the lapwing to allure 
men or dogs from her neft, are perfectly amufmg. When fhe 
perceives the enemy approaching* fhe never waits till they arrive 
at her neft, but boldly runs to meet them : when fhe has come as 
near them as fhe dares to venture, fhe then rifes with a loud 
fcreaming before them, feeming as if fhe was juft flufhed from 
hatching ; while fhe is then probably a hundred yards from the 
neft. Thus fhe flies, with great clamour and anxiety, whining 
and fcreaming round the invaders, linking at them with her 
wings, and fluttering as if fhe were wounded. To add to the 
deceit, fhe appears ftill more clamorous, as more remote from 
the neft. If ihe fees them very near, fhe then feems to be quite 
unconcerned, and her cries ceafe, while her terrors are really aug- 
menting. If there be doo s, file flies heavily at a little diftance 
before them, as if maimed ; ftill vociferous and ftill bold, but ne- 
ver, offering to move towards the quarter where her treafure is 


depofited. The dog purfues, in hopes every moment of feizing 
the parent, and by this means a&ually lofes the young; for the 
cunning bird, when ihe has thus drawn him off to a proper dif- 
tance, then puts forth her powers, and leaves her aftonimed pur- 
fuer to gaze at the rapidity of her flight. The eggs of all thefe 
birds are highly valued by the luxurious; they are boiled hard, 
and thus ferved up, without any further preparation. 

As the young of this clafs are foon hatched, fo, when excluded, 
they quickly arrive at maturity. They run about after the 
mother as foon as they leave the egg ; and being covered with 
a thick down, want very little of that clutching, which all birds 
of the poultry kind, that follow the mother, indifpenfably require. 
They come to their adult ftate long before winter ; and then 
flock together, till the breeding feafon returns, which for a while 
diffolves their fociety. 

As the flem of almoft all thefe birds is in high eftimation, fo 
many methods have been contrived for taking them. That 
ufed in taking the ruff, feems to be the moft advantageous ; 
and it may not be amifs to defcribe it. The ruff, which is the 
name of the male, the reeve that of the female, is taken in nets 
about forty yards long, and feven or eight feet high. Thefe 
birds are chiefly found in Lincolnfhire and the Ifle of Ely, where 
they come about the latter end of April, and difappear about 
Michaelmas. The male of this bird, which is known from all 
1 others of the kind, by the great length of the feathers round his 
neck, is yet fo various in his plumage, that it is faid, no two 
ruffs were ever feen totally of the fame colour. The nets in 
which thefe are taken, are fupported by flicks, at an angle of 
near forty-five degrees, and placed either on dry ground, or in 
very fhallow water, not remote from reeds : among thefe the 
fowler conceals himfelf, till the birds, enticed by a ftale or fluf- 
fed bird, come under the nets : he then, by pulling a ftring, 
lets them fall, and they are taken ; as are godwits, knots, and 
e;rey plover, alfo in the fame manner. When thefe birds are 
brought from under the net, they are not killed immediately, 
but fattened for the table, with bread and milk, hemp-feed, and 
fometimes boiled wheat ; but if expedition be wanted, fugar ifc 




added, which will make them a lump of fat in a fortnight's 
time. They are kept, as obferved before, in a dark room; 
and judgment is required in taking the proper time for killing 
them, when they are at the higheft pitch of fatnefs ; for, if that 
is neglected, the birds are apt to fall away. They are reckoned 
a very great delicacy ; they fell for two fhillings, or half a crown 
a piece : and are ferved up to the table with the train, like woocU 
cocks, where we will leave them. 


Of the Water-hen and the Coot. 

BEFORE we enter upon water-fowls, properly fo called, 
two or three birds claim our attention, which feem to form 
the made between the web-footed tribe and thofe of the crane 
kind. Thefe partake rather of the form than the habits of the 
crane ; and, though furnifhed with long legs and necks, rather 
fwim than wade. They cannot properly be called web-footed; 
nor yet are they entirely deftitute of membranes, which fringe 
their toes on each fide, and adapt them for fwimming. The birds 
in queftion are, the water-hen, and the bald-coot. 

Thefe birds have too near an affinity, not to be ranked in the 
fame defcription. They are fhaped entirely alike j their legs are 
long, and their thighs partly bare; their necks are proportionable, 
their wings fhort, their bills fhort and weak, their colour black, 
their foreheads bald and without feathers, and their habits en- 
tirely the fame. Thefe, however, naturalifts have thought pro- 
per to range in different claries, from very flight diftindtions 
in their figure. The water-hen weighs but fifteen ounces ; the 
coot twenty-four. The bald part of the forehead in the coot is 
black; in the water-hen it is of a beautiful pink colour. Ths 
toes of the water-hen are edged with a ftraicrht membrane; thofe 

to & 

of the coot have it fcolloped and broader, 
VOL. Ill, G g 


The differences in the figure are but flight ; and thofe in their 
manner of living ftill Icfs. The hiftory of the one will ferve for 
both. As birds of the crane kind are furnifhed with long wings, 
and eafily change place, the water-hen, whofe wings are fhort, 
is obliged to refide entirely near thofe places where her food lies : 
fhe cannot take thofe long journies that moft of the crane kind 
are feen to perform ; compelled by her natural imperfections, as 
well perhaps as by inclination, fhe never leaves the fide of the 
pond or the river in which fhe feeks for provifion. Where the 
ftream is felvaged with fedges, or the pond edged with fhrubby 
trees, the water-hen is generally a refident there : ihe fecks her 
food along the graffy banks 5 and often along the furface of the 
water. With Shakefpear's Edgar, fhe drinks the green man- 
tle of the ftanding pool ', or, at leaft, feems to prefer thofe places 
where it is feen. Whether fhe makes pond- weed her food, or 
hunts among it for water-infects, which are found there in great 
abundance, is not certain. I have feen them when pond-weed 
was taken out of their ftomach. She builds her neft upon low 
trees arid fhrubs, of flicks and fibres, by the water fide. Her 
eggs are fharp at one end, white, with a tin&ure of green, fpotted 
with red. She lays twice or thrice in a fummer ; her young ones 
fwim the moment they leave the egg, purfue their parent, and 
imitate all her manners. She rears, in this manner, two or 
three broods in a feafon ; and when the young are grown up, 
Ihe drives them off to fhift for themfelves. 

As the coot is a larger bird, it is always feen in larger ftreams, 
and more remote from mankind. The water-hen feems to pre- 
fer inhabited fituations: fhe keeps near ponds, motes, and pools 
of water near gentlemen's houfes ; but the coot keeps in rivers, 
and among rufhy margined lakes. It there makes a neft of fuch 
weeds as the ftream fupplies, and lays them among the reeds, 
floating on the furface, and rifing and falling with the water. The 
reeds among which it is built keep it faft; fo that it is feldom 
wafhed into the middle of the ftream. But if this happens, 
which is fornetimes the cafe, the bird fits in her neft, like a ma- 
riner in his boat, and fleers with her legs her cargo into the neareft 
harbour : there, having attained her port, fhe continues to fit in 


great tranquility, regardlefs of the impetuofity of the current ; 
and though the water penetrates her neft, fhe hatches her eggs 
in that wet condition. 

The water-hen never wanders ; but the coot fometimes fwims 
down the current, till it even reaches the fea. In this voyage 
thefb birds encounter a thoufand dangers: as they cannot fly far, 
they are hunted by dogs and men ; as they never leave the flream, 
they are attacked and deftroyed by otters, they are preyed upon 
by kites and falcons; and they are taken, in ftill greater num- 
bers, in weirs made for catching fifli ; for thefe birds are led into 
the nets, while purfuing fmall fifh and infects, which are their 
principal food. Thus animated nature affords a picture of uni- 
verfal invafion ! Man deftroys the otter, the otter deftroys the 
coot, the coot feeds upon fifh, and fifh are univerfally the tyrants 
of each other. 

To thefe birds, with long legs and finny toes, I will add one 
fpecies more, with fhort legs and finny toes : I mean the grebe. 
The entire refemblance of this bird's appetites and manners to 
thofeof the web-footed clafs, might juftly induce me to rank it 
among them; but as it refembles thofe above defcribed, in the 
peculiar form of its toes, and bears fome fimilitude in its manners 
alfo, I will for once facrifice method to brevity. The grebe is 
much larger than either of the former, and its plumage white and 
black: it differs alfo entirely in the fhortnefs of its legs, which 
are made for fwimming, and not for walking : in fact, they are 
from the knee upwards hid in the belly of the bird, and have con- 
fequently very little motion. By this mark, and by the fcol- 
loped fringe of the toes, may this bird be eafily diftinguifhed 
from all others. 

As they are thus, from the fhortnefs of their wings, ill formed 
for flying, and, from the uncommon fhortnefs of their legs, ut- 
terly unfitted for walking, they feldom leave the water, and 
chiefly frequent thofe broad mallow pools, where their faculty of 
fwimming can be turned to the greateft advantage, in fifhing 
and feekirig their prey. 


They are chiefly, in this country, feen to frequent the meres 
of Shropshire, and Cheshire ; where they breed among reeds and 
flags, in a floating neft, kept fteady by the weeds of the margin. 
The female is faid to be a careful nurfe of its young, being ob~ 
ferved to feed them moft affiduoufly with (mall eels ; and when 
the little brood is tired, the mother will carry them, either on 
her back or under her wings. This bird preys upon fifh, and is 
almoft perpetually diving. It does not fhew much more than 
the head above the water; and is very difficult to be fliot, as it 
darts down, on the appearance of the leaft danger. It is never 
feen on land ; and, though difturbed ever fo often, will not leave 
that lake, where alone, by diving and fwimming, it can find food 
and fecurity. It is chiefly fought for the fkin of its breaft, the 
plumage of which is of a'moft beautiful filvery white, and as 
glofiy as fatin. This part is made into tippets ; but the fkins 
are out of feafon about February, lofing their bright colour; and 
in breeding-time their breafts are entirely bare, 




Of Water-fowl In general. 

IN fettling the diftin&ions among the other clafe of birds, 
there was fome difficulty ; one tribe encroached fo nearly 
upon the nature and habitudes of another, that it was not eafy 
to draw the line which kept them afunder : but in water-fowl, 
nature has marked them for us by a variety of indelible cha- 
racters ; fo that it would be almoft as unlikely to miftake a land- 
fowl for one adapted for living and fwimming among the waters, 
as a fifh for a bird. 

The firft great diftinc~rion in this clafs, appears in the toes, 
which are webbed together for fwimming. Thofe who have 
remarked the feet or toes of a duck, will eafily conceive how 
admirably they are formed for making way in the water. When 
men fwim, they do not open the ringers, fo as to let the fluid pafs 
through them j but clofmg them together, prefent one broad 
furface to beat back the water, and thus pufh their bodies along. 
What man performs by art, nature has fupplied to water-fowl; 
and, by broad fkins, has webbed their toes together, fo that they 
expand two broad oars to the waters ; and thus moving them al r 
ternately, with the greateft eafe paddle along. We muft obferve 
alfo, that the toes are fo contrived, that, as they ft rike backward, 
their broadeft hollow furface beats the water ; but as they gather 
them in again, for a fecond blow, their front furface contracts, and 
does not impede the bird's progrefiive motion. 

As their toes are webbed in the moft convenient manner, fo 
are their legs alfo made moft fitly for fwift progreilion in the 
water. The legs of all are fhort, except the three birds defcribed 
in a former chapter ; namely, the flamingo, the avofetta, and ths 


corrira : all which, for that reafon, I have thought proper to rank 
among the crane kind, as they make little ufe of their toes in 
fwimming. Except thefe, all web-footed birds have very fhort 
legs ; and thcfe ftrike, while they fwim, with greater facility. 
Were the leg long, it would aft like a lever whofe prop is placed 
to a difadvantage -, its motions would be flow, and the labour of 
moving it confiderable. For this reafon, the very few birds 
whofe webbed feet are long, never make ufe of them in fwim- 
ming : the web at the bottom feems only of fervice as a broad 
bafe, to prevent them from finking while they walk in the mud ; 
but it otherwife rather retards than advances their motion. 

The fliortnefs of the legs in the web-footed kinds, renders 
them as unfit for walking on land, as it qualifies them for 
fwimming in their natural element. Their ftay, therefore, up- 
on land, is but fhort and tranfitory ; and they feldom venture 
to breed far from the fides of thofe waters where they ufually 
remain. In their breeding feafons, their young are brought up 
by the water-fide ; and they are covered with a warm down, to 
fit them for the coldnefs of their fituation. The old ones alfo 
have a clofer, warmer plumage, than birds of any other clafs. It 
is of their feathers that our beds are compofed, as they neither mat 
nor imbibe humidity, but are furnifhed with an animal-oil, that 
glazes their furface, and keeps each feparate. In fome, however, 
this animal-oil is in too great abundance ; and is as offenfive 
from its fmell, as it is ferviceable for the purpofes of houfehold 
ceconomy. The feathers, therefore, of all the penguin kind, are 
totally ufelefs for domeftic purpofes j as neither boiling nor 
bleaching can diveft them of their oily rancidity. Indeed, the 
rancidity of all new feathers, of whatever water-fowl they be, 
js fo difgufting, that our upholfterers give near double the 
price for old feathers that they afford for new ; to be free from 
fmell, they muft all be lain upon for fome time; and their ufual 
method is to mix the new and old together. 

This quantity of oil, with which moft water-fowl are fup~ 
plied, contributes alfo to their warmth in the moift element 
where they refide. Their fkin is generally lined with fat; fo 


that, with the warmth of the feathers externally, and this na- 
tural lining more internally, they are better defended againft the 
changes or the inclemencies of the weather, than any other clafs 

As, among land-birds, there are fome found fitted entirely 
for depredation, and others for an harmlefs method of fubfifting 
upon vegetables, fo alfo among thefe birds there are tribes of 
plunderers, that prey, not only upon fifti, but fometimes upon 
water-fowl themfelves. There are likewife more inoftenfive 
tribes, that live upon infects and vegetables only. Some water- 
fowls fubfift by making fudden ftoops from above, to feize 
whatever fifh come near the furface; others again, not furnifh- 
ed with wings long enough to fit them for flight, take their prey 
by diving after it to the bottom. 

From hence all water-fowl naturally fall into three difti notions. 
Thofe of the gull kind, that, with long legs and round bills, fly 
along the furface to feize their prey. Thofe of the penguin 
kind, that, with round bills, legs hid in the abdomen, and fhort 
wings, dive after their prey : and thirdly, thofe of the goofe 
kind; with flat broad bills, that lead harmlefs lives, and chiefly 
fubfift upon infects and vegetables. 

Thefe are not fpeculative diftinctions, made up for the ar- 
rangement of afyftem; but they are ftrongly and evidently 
marked by nature. The gull kind are active and rapacious ; 
conftantly, except when they breed, keeping upon the wing; 
fitted for a life of rapine, with (harp, ftraight bills for piercing, 
or hooked at the end for holding their fifhy prey. In this clafs 
we may rank the albatrofs, the cormorant, the gannet or Soland 
goofe, the fhag, the frigate bird, the great brown gull, and all 
the lefTer tribe of gulls and fea-fwallows. 

The penguin kind, with appetites as voracious, bills as fharp, 
and equally eager for prey, are yet unqualified to obtain it by- 
flight. Their wings are fhort, and their bodies large and hea- 
vy, fo that they can neither run nor fly. But they are formed 
for diving in a very peculiar manner. Their feet are placed 


fo far backward, and their legs fo hid in the abdomen, that th'e 
flighteft ftroke fends them head foremoft to the bottom of th 
water. To this clafs we may refer the penguin, the auk, the 
fkout, the fea-turtle, the bottle-nofe, and the loon. 

The goofe kind are eafily diftinguifhable, by their fiat, 
broad bills, covered with a fkin; and their manner of feedino-, 


which is moftly upon vegetables. In this clafs we may place 
the fwan, the goofe, the duck, the teal, the widgeon, and all 
their numerous varieties. 

In defcribing the birds of thefe three clafTes, I will put the 
moft remarkable of each clafs at the beginning of their refpec- 
tive tribes, and give their feparate hiftory: then after having 
defcrtbed the chiefs of the {ribe, the more ordinary forts will na- 
turally fall in a body, and come under a general dcfcription, be- 
hind their leaders. But before I offer to purfue this methodical 
arrangement, I muft give the hiftory of a bird, that, from the 
fmgularity of its conformation, feems allied to no fpecies ; and 
fhould therefore be feparately defcribed. I mean the pelican* 


Of the Pelican. 

TH E pelican of Africa is much larger in the body than a 
fwan, and fomewhat of the fame fhape and colour. Its 
four toes are all webbed together; and its neck in fome meafure 
refembles that of a fwan: but that fingularity in which it differs 
from all other birds, is in the bill and the great pouch underneath, 
which are wonderful, and demand a diftint dcfcription. This 
enormous bill is fifteen inches from the point to the opening of 
the mouth, which is a good way back behind the eyes. At the 
bafe the bill is fomewhat greenifh, but varies towards the end, 
being of a reddifh blue. It is very thick in the beginning, but 
tapers off to the end, where it hooks downwards. The under 
chap is {till more extraordinary; for to the lower edges of it hang 

WATE R-FoxvL. 24.1 

a bag, reaching the whole length of the bill to the neck, which is 
faid to be capable of containing fifteen quarts of water. This 
bag the bird has a power of wrinkling up into the hollow of the 
under chap ; but by opening the bill, and putting one's hand down 
into the bag, it may be diftended at pleafure. The fkin of which 
it is formed will then be feen of a bluifti afh-colour, with many 
fibres and veins running over its furface. It is not covered with 
feathers, but a (hort downy fubftance as fmooth and as foft as fatin, 
and is attached all along the under edges of the chap, to be fixed 
backward to the neck of the bird by proper ligaments, and reaches 
near half way down. When this bag is empty, it is not feen; 
but when the bird has fifhed with fuccefs, it is then incredible to 
what an extent it is often feen dilated. For the firft thing the 
pelican does in fiflung is to fill up the bag; and then it returns 
to digeft its burden at leifure. When the bill is opened to its 
wideft extent, a perfon may run his head into the bird's mouth, 
and conceal it in this monftrous pouch, thus adapted for very fin- 
gular purpoies. Yet this is nothing to what Ruyfch a flu res us, 
who avers that a man has been feen to hide his whole leg, boot and 
all, in the monftrous jaws of one of thefe animals. At firft ap- 
pearance, this would feem impoffible; as the fides of the under 
chap, from which the bag depends j are not above an inch afunder 
when the bird's bill is firft opened ; but then they are capable of 
great feparation, and it muft neceflarily be fo, as the bird preys 
upon the largeft fifties, and hides them by dozens in its pouch. 
Tertre affirms, that it will hide as many fifh as will ferve fixty 
hungry men for a meal. 

Such is the formation of this extraordinary bird, which is a na- 
tive of Africa and America. The pelican was once alfo known 
in Europe, particularly in Ruffia; but it feems to have deferted 
our coafts. This is the bird of which fo many fabulous accounts 
have been propagated ; fuch as its feeding its young with its own 
blood, and its carrying a provifion of water for them in its great 
refervoir, in the defert. But the abfurdity of the firft account an- 
fwers itfelf; and as for the latter, the pelican ufes its bag for very 
different purpofes than that of filling it with water. 

VOL. III. H h 


Its amazing pouch may be confidered as analogous to the crop 
in other birds, with this difference, that as theirs lies at the bot- 
tom of the gullet, fo this is placed at the top. Thus, as pi- 
geons and other birds macerate their food for their young in their 
crops, and then fupply them, fo the pelican fupplies its young by 
a more ready contrivance, and macerates their food in its bill, or 
ftores it for its own particular fuflenance. 

The ancients were particularly fond of giving this bird admir- 
able qualities and parental affections : {truck, perhaps, with its 
extraordinary figure, they were willing to fupply it with as ex- 
traordinary appetites ; and having found it with a large refervoir, 
they were pleafed with turning it to the moft tender and parental 
ufes. But the truth is, the pelican is a very heavy, fluggifh, vo- 
racious bird, and very ill fitted to take thofe flights, or to make 
thofe cautious provifions for a difbnt time, which we have been 
told they do. Father Labat, who feems to have ftudied their 
manners with great exa&nefs, has given us a minute hiftory of 
this bird, as found in America ; and from him I will borrow mine. 

The pelican, fays Labat, has ftrong wings, furnifhed with 
thick plumage of an afh colour, as are the reft of the feathers 
ever the whole body. Its eyes are very fmall, when compared to 
the fize of its head ; there is a fadnefs in its countenance, and its 
whole air is melancholy. It is as dull and reluctant in its moti- 
ons, as the flamingo is fprightly and active. It is flow of flight ; 
and when it rifes to fly, performs it with difficulty and labour. 
Nothing, as it would feem, but the fpur of neceflity, could make 
thefc birds change their fituation, or induce them to afcend into 
the air ; but they muft either ftarve or fly. 

They are torpid and inactive to the laft degree ; fo that nothing 
can exceed their indolence but their gluttony ; it is only from the 
ftimulations of hunger that they are excited to labour; for other- 
wife they would continue always in fixed repofe. When they 
have raifed themfelves about thirty or forty feet above the furface 
of the fea, they turn their head with one eye downwards, and con- 
tinue to fly in that pofture. As foon as they perceive a fim fuf- 
Sciently near the furface, they dart dawn upon it wjth the fwift- 

WATER-FOWL. . 243 

nefs of an arrow, feize it with unerring certainty, and ftore it up 
in their pouch. They then rife again, though not without great- 
labour, and continue hovering and fiming, with their head on one 
fide as before. 

This work they continue with great effort and induftry till 
their bag is full, and then they fly to land to devour and digeft at 
leifure the fruits of their induftry. This, however, it would ap- 
pear, they are not long performing ; for towards night they have 
another hungry calls and they again relu&antly go to labour. 
At night, when their fifhing is over, and the toil of the day crown- 
ed with fuccefs, thefe lazy birds retire a little way from the 
fhore; and, though with the webbed feet and clumfy figure of a 
goofe, they will be contented to perch no where but upon trees 
among the light and airy tenants of the forefL There they take 
their repofe for the night ; and often fpend a great part of the day, 
except fuch times as they are fifhing, fitting in difmal folemnity, 
and, as it would feem, half afleep. Their attitude is, with the 
head refting upon their great bag, and that refting upon their 
breaft. There they remain without motion, or once changing 
their fituation, till the call of hunger breaks their repofe, and till 
they find it indifpenfably necefTary to fill their magazine for a 
frefh meal. Thus their life is fpent between fleeping and eat- 
ing ; and our author adds, that they are as foul as they are vora- 
cious; as they are every moment voiding excrements in heaps as 
large as one's fift. 

The fame indolent habits feem to attend them even in prepar- 
ing for incubation, and defending their young when excluded. 
The female makes no preparation for her neft, nor feems to choofe 
any place in preference to lay in ; but drops her eggs on the bare 
ground, to the number of five or fix, and there continues to hatch 
them. Attached to the place, without any defire of defending 
her eggs or her young, fhe tamely fits and fuffers them to be 
taken from under her. Now and then fhe juft ventures to peck, 
or to cry out when a perfon offers to beat her off. 

She feeds her young with fifh, macerated for fome time in her 
bag i and when they cry, flies off for a new fupply. Labat tells 


us that he took two of thefe, when very young, and tied them bv 
the leg to a poft {luck into the ground, where he had the pleafure 
of feeing the old one for feveral days come to feed them, remain- 
ing with them the greateft part of the day, and fpending the 
night on the branch of a tree that hung over them. By thefe 
means they were all three become fo familiar, that they fuffered 
themfelves to be handled ; and the young ones very kindly ac- 
cepted whatever fifh he offered them.? Thefe they always put 
firft into their bag, and then fwallowed at their leifure. 

It feems, however, that they are but difagreeable and ufelefs 
domeftics ; their gluttony can fcarcely be fatisfied ; their flefh 
fmells very rancid ; and taftes a thoufand times worfe than it 
fmells. The native Americans kill vaft numbers, not to eat, 
for they are not fit even for the banquet of a favage; but to 
convert their large bags into purfes and tobacco-pouches. They 
beftow no fmall pains in dreffing the {kin with fait and afhes, 
rubbing it well with oil, and then forming it to their purpofe. 
It thus becomes fo foft and pliant, that the Spanifh women fome- 
times adorn it with gold and embroidery to make work-bags of. 

Yet, with all the feeming hebetude of this bird, it is not en- 
tirely incapable of inftru&ion in a cjomeftic ftate. Father Ray- 
mond affures us, that he has feen one fo tame and fo well edu- 
cated among the native Americans, that it would go off in the 
morning at the word of command, and return before night to its 
matter, with its great paunch diftended with pi under; a part of 
which the fa v ages would make it difgorge, and a part they 
would permit it to refer ve for itfelf. 

" The Pelican," as Faber relates, " is not deftitute of other 
qualifications. One of thofe which was brought alive to the 
duke of Bavaria's court, where it lived forty years, feemed to be 
pofiefifed of very uncommon fenfations. It was much delighted 
jn the company and converfation of men, and in mufic both vo- 
cal and inftrumental; for it would willingly ftand," fays he, 
by thofe that fung or founded the- trumpet ; and ftretching out 
Its head, and turning its ear to the mufic, liftened very attentively 
<:s harmony, though its own voice was little pleafanter than 


the braying of an afs." Gefner tells us, that the emperor Max- 
imilian had a tame pelican, which lived for above eighty years, 
and that always attended his army on their march. It was one 
of the 1-argeft of the kind, and had a daily allowance by the em- 
peror's orders. As another proof of the great age to which the 
pelican lives, Aldrovandus makes mention of one of thefe birds 
that was kept feveral years at Mechlin, and was verily believed to 
be fifty years old. We often fee thefe birds at our fhews about 


Of the Albatrofs, the fir/I of the Gull Kind, 

THOUGH this is one of the largeft and moft formidable 
birds of Africa and America, yet we have but few ac- 
counts to enlighten us in its hiftory. The figure of the bird is 
thus defcribed by Edwards. " The body is rather larger than 
that of the pelican; and its wings, when extended, are ten feet 
from tip to tip. The bill, which is fix inches long, is yellowifh, 
and terminates in a crooked point. The top of the head is of a 
bright brown : the back is of a dirty deep fpotted brown ; and 
the belly and under the wings is white ; the toes, which are web- 
bed, are of a flefli colour." 

Such are the principal traits in this bird's figure: but thefe 
lead us a very fhort way in its hiftory; and our naturalifts have 
thought fit to fay nothing more. However, I am apt to believe 
this bird to be the fame with that defcribed by Wicqueforr, un- 
der the title of the alcatraz ; its fize, its colours, and its prey 
incline me to think fo. He defcribes it as a kind of great gull, 
as large in the body as a goofe, of a brown colour, with a long 
bill, and living upon fifli, of which it kills great numbers. 

This bird is an inhabitant of the tropical climates, and alfo 
beyond them as far as the S freights of Magellan in the South 
Seas. It is one of the moft fierce and formidable of the aquatic 

246 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

tribe, not only living upon fifli, but alfo fuch fmall water-fowl 
as it can take by furprize. It preys, as all the gull kind do, 
upon the wing ; and chiefly purfues the flying-rim, that are 
forced from the fea by the dolphins. The ocean, in that part of 
the world, prefents a very different appearance from the feas with 
which we are furrounded. In our feas we fee nothing but a drea- 
ry expanfe, ruffled by winds, and feemingly forfaken by every 
clafs of animated nature. But the tropical feas, and the diftant 
fouthern latitudes beyond them, are all alive with birds and 
jfimes, purfuing and purfued. Every various fpecies of the gull 
kind, are there feen hovering on the wing, at a thoufand miles 
diflance from the fhore. The flying fifh are every moment 
rifmg to efcape from their purfuers of the deep, only to encounter 
equal dangers in the air. Juft as they rife, the dolphin is fcen 
to dart after them, but generally in vain ; the gull has more fre- 
quent fuccefs, and often takes them at their rife; while the alba- 
trofs purfues the gull, and obliges it to relinquifh its prey; fo 
that the whole horizon prefents but one living picture of rapacity 
and evafion. 

So much is certain; but how far we are to credit Wicque- 
fort, in what he adds concerning this bird, the reader is left to 
determine. " As thefe birds, except when they breed, live en- 
tirely remote from land, fo they are often feen, as it mould feem, 
Sleeping in the air. At night, when they are prefled by fl umber, 
they rife into the clouds as high as they can ; there, putting their 
head under one wing, they beat the air with the other, and feem 
to take their eafe. After a time, however, the weight of their 
bodies, only thus half fupported, brings them down; and they 
are feen defcending with pretty rapid motion towards the 
furface cf the fea. Upon this they again put forth their efforts 
to rife; and thus alternately afcend and defcend at their eafe. 
But it fometimes happens," fays my author, " that, in thefe 
{lumbering flights, they are off their guard, and fall upon deck, 
where they are taken." 

What truth there may be in this account, I will not take 
upon me to determine: but certain it is, that few birds float 


upon the air with more cafe than the albatrofs, or fupport them- 
felves a longer time in that element. They feem never to feel 
the accefles of fatigue; but night and day upon the wing, are 
always prowling, yet always emaciated and hungry. 

But though this bird be one of the moft formidable tyrants 
of the deep, there are fome aflbciations which even tyrants them- 
felves form, to which they are induced cither by caprice or ne- 
ceffity. The albatrofs feems to have a peculiar affection for 
the penguin, and a pleafure in its fociety. They are always feen 
to choofe the fame places for breeding ; fome diftant, uninhabited 
ifland, where the ground flants to the fea, as the penguin is not 
formed either for flying or climbing. In fuch places, their nefts 
are feen together, as if they ftood in need of mutual affiftance 
and protection. Captain Hunt, who for fome time commanded 
at our fettlement upon Falkland iflands, affaires me, that he was 
amazed at the union preferved between thefe birds, and the regu- 
larity with which they build together. In that bleak and de- 
folate fpot, where the birds had long continued undifturbed pof- 
fefTors, and no way dreaded the encroachments of men, they 
feemed to make their abode as comfortable, as they expected it 
to be lafting. They were feen to build with an amazing degree 
of uniformity ; their nefts covering fields by thoufands, and re- 
fembling a regular plantation. In the middle, on high, the al- 
batroft raifed its neft, on heath fticks and long grafs, about two 
feet above the furface : round this the penguins made their lower 
fettlements, rather in holes in the ground ; and moft ufually 
eight penguins to one albatrofs. Nothing is a ftronger proof of 
Mr. Buffon's fine obfervation, that the prefence of man not 
only deftroys the fociety of meaner animals, but their inftincts 
alfo. Thefe nefts are now, I am told, totally deftroyed ; the 
fociety is broke up; and the albatrofs and penguin have gone 
to breed upon more defert fhores, in greater fecurity. 



The Cormorant. 

f |^ H E cormorant is about the fize of a large Mufcovy-duck, 
X and may be diftinguifhed from all other birds of this kind, 
by its four toes being united by membranes together ; and by the 
middle toe being toothed or notched, like a faw, to affift it in 
holding its fifhy prey. The head and neck of this bird are of a 
footy blacknefs ; and the body thick and heavy, more inclining 
in figure to that of the goofe than the gull. The bill is ftraight, 
till near the end, where the upper chap bends into a hook. 

But notwithftanding the feeming heavinefs of its make, there 
are few birds more powerfully predaceous. As foon as the win- 
ter approaches, they are feen difperfed along the fea-fhore, and 
afcending up the mouths of frefh-water rivers, carrying deftruc- 
tion to all the finny tribe. They are moft remarkably voracious, 
and have a moft fudden digeftion. Their appetite is for ever 
craving, and never fatisfied. This gnawing fenfation may pro- 
bably be increafed by the great quantity of fmall worms that fill 
their inteftines, and which their unceafing gluttony contributes 
to engender. 

Thus formed with the grofleft appetites, this unclean bird has 
the moft rank and difagreeable fmell, and is more foetid, even 
when in its moft healthful ftate, than carrion. Its form, fays an 
ingenious modern, is difagreeable; its voice is hoarfe and croak- 
ing; and all its qualities obfcene. No wonder then that Milton 
fhould make Satan perfonate this bird, when he fent him upon 
the bafeft purpofes, to furvey with pain the beauties of Paradife, 
and to fit devifing death, on the tree of life.* It has been re- 
marked, however, of our poet, that the making a water-fowl 
perch on a tree, implied no great acquaintance with the hiftory of 
nature. In vindication of Milton, Ariftotle exprefsly fays, that 

* Vide Tenant's Zoology, p. 477. 


the cormorant is the only water-fowl that fits on trees. We 
have already feen the pelican of this number; and the jormc- 
rant's toes feem as fit for perching upon trees as for fwimming ; 
fo that our epic bard feems to have been as deeply verfed in natu- 
ral hiftory as in criticifm. 

Indeed, this bird feems to be of a multiform nature, and, 
wherever fifh are to be found, watches their migrations. It is 
feen as well by land as fea ; it fifties in frefh-wahier lakes, as 
well as in the depths of the ocean; it builds in the cliffs of rocks 
as well as on trees ; and preys not only in the day-time, but by 

Its indefatigable nature, and its great power in catching fifti* 
were probably the motives that induced fome nations to breed 
this bird up tame, for the purpofes of fifhing ; and Willoughby 
allures us, it was once ufed in England for that purpofe. The 
defcription of their manner of fifhing is thus delivered by Faben 
" When they carry them out of the rooms where they are kept, 
to the fifh-pools, they hood-wink them, that they may not be 
frighted by the way. When they are come to the rivers, they 
take off their hoods; and having tied a leather thong round the 
lower parts of their necks, that they may not fwallow down the 
fifh they catch, they throw them into the river. They prefently 
dive under water: and there, for a long time, with wonderful 
fwiftnefs, purfue the fifti ; and when they have caught them, rife 
to the top of the water, arid prefiing the fifh lightly with their 
bills, fw&llow them ; till each bird hath, after this manner, de- 
voured fiVe or fix fifties. Then their keepers Call them to the 
ft, to which they readily fly; and, one after another, vomit up 
all their fifh, a little bruifed with the firft nip given in catching 
them. When they have done fifliing, fetting the birds on fome 
high place, they loofe the firing from their necks, leaving the paf* 
fage to the ftomach free and open; and, for their reward, they 
throw them part of their prey; to each, one or two fifties, which^ 
they will catch moft dexteroufly, as they are failing in the air." 

At prefent, the cormorant is trained up in every part of China 
for the fame purpofe, where there are many lakes and canals. 
VOL, III. I i 


" To this end,' 7 fays Le Comte, cc they are educated as men 
rear up fpaniels or hawks, and one man can eafily manage an 
hundrea. The fifher carries them out into the lake, perched on 
the gunnel of his boat, where they continue tranquil, and ex- 
pecling his orders with patience. When arrived at the proper 
place, at the firfl fignal given, each flies a different Way, to fulfil 
the tafk afligned it. It is very pleafant, on this occafion, to behold 
with what fagacity they portion out the lake or the canal where 
they are upon duty. They hunt about, they plunge, they rife an 
hundred times to the furface, until they have at laft found their 
prey. They then feize it with their beak by the middle, and carry 
it without fail to their mafter. When the fifti is too large, they 
then give each other mutual afiiftance : one feizes it by the head, 
the other by the tail, and in this manner carry it to the boat toge- 
ther. There the boatman ftretches out one of his long oars, on 
which they perch, and, behig delivered of their burden, they fly 
off to purfue their fport. When they are wearied, he lets them 
reft for a while; but they are never fed till their work is over. 
In this manner they fupply a very plentiful table; but ftill their 
natural gluttony cannot be reclaimed, even by education. They 
have always, while they fifh, the fame firing faftened round their 
throats, to prevent them from devouring their prey, as other wife 
they would at once fatiate themfelves, and difcontinue their pur- 
fuit the moment they had filled their bellies." 

As for the reft, the cormorant is the beft fifher of all birds, 
and though fat and heavy with the quantity it devours, is ne- 
verthelefs generally upon the wing. The great activity with 
which it purfues, and from a vaft height drops down to dive af- 
ter its prey, offers one of the moft amufing fpe&acles to thofe 
who ftand upon a cliff on the fhore. This large bird is fel- 
dorn feen in the air, but where there are fifli below; but then 
they muft be near the furface, before it will venture to foufe 
upon them. If they are at a depth beyond what the impetus 
of its flight makes the cormorant capable of diving to, they 
certainly efcape him ; for this bird cannot move ,fo faft under 
water, as the fifh can fwim. It feldom, however, makes an 
unfucccfsful dip; and is often feen rifmg heavily, with a fifh 


larger than it can readily devour. It fometimes alfo happens, 
that the cormorant has caught the fifh by the tail ; and confe- 
quently the fins prevent its being fwallowed in that pofition. 
In this cafe, the bird is feen to tofs its prey above its head, and 
very dexterou fly to catch it when defcending, by the proper end, 
and fo fwallow it with eafe. 


Of the Gannet) or Soland Goofe. 

TH E gannet is of the fize of a tame goofe, but its wings 
much longer, being fix feet over. The bill is fix inches 
long, ftraight almoft to the point, where it inclines down, and 
the fides are irregularly jagged, that it may hold its prey with 
greater fecurity. It differs from the cormorant in fize, being 
larger, and in colour, which is chiefly white; and by its having 
no noftrils, but in their place along furrow that reaches almoft 
to the end of the bill. From the corner of the mouth is a narrow 
flip of black, bare fkin, that extends to the hind part of the head ; 
beneath the fkin is another, that, like the pouch of the pelican, 
is dilatable, and of fize fufficient to contain five or fix entire 
herrings, which, in the breeding feafon, it carries at once to its 
mate or its young. 

Thefe birds, which fubfift entirely upon fifh, chiefly refort 
to thofe uninhabited iflands, where their food is found in plenty, 
and men feldom come to difturb them. The iflands to the north 
of Scotland, the Skelig iflands off the coaft of Kerry, in Ireland, 
and thofe that lie in the north fea of Norway, abound with them, 
But it is on the Bafs ifland, in the Firth of Edinburgh, where they 
are feen in the greateft abundance. " There is a fmall ifland," 
fays the celebrated Harvey, " called the Bafs, not more than a 
mile in circumference. The furface is almoft wholly covered 
during the months of May and June with their nefts, their eggs 
and young. It is fcarcely pofiible to walk without treading 


on them : the flocks of birds upon the wing, are fo numerous, 
as to darken the air like a cloud ; and their noife is fuch, that 
one cannot without difficulty, be heard by the perfon next to 
him. When one looks down upon the fea from the precipice, 
its whole furface teems covered with infinite numbers of birds 
of different kinds, fwimming and purfuing their prey. If, in 
failing round the ifland, one furveys its hanging cliffs, in every 
crag or nffure of the broken rocks, may be feen innumerable 
birds of various forts and fizes, more than the ftars of heaven, 
when viewed in a ferene night. If they are viewed at a dif- 
tance, either receding, or in their approach to the ifland, they 
feem like one vaft fwarm of bees." 

They are not lefs frequent upon the rocks of St. Kilda. 
Martin afiures us, that the inhabitants of that fmall ifland con- 
fume annually near twenty-three thoufand young birds of this 
fpecies, befides an amazing quantity of their eggs. On thefe 
they principally fubfift throughout the year; and from the num- 
ber of thefe vifitants, make an eftimate of their plenty for the 
feafon. They preferve both the eggs and fowls in fmall pyra- 
midal flone buildings, covering them with turf afhes, to prevent 
the evaporation of their moiflure. 

The gannet is a bird of pafiage. In winter it feeks the more 
fouthern coafts of Cornwall, hovering over the fhoals of her- 
rings and pilchards that then come down from the northern 
leas: its firft appearance in the northern iflsnds, is in the be- 
ginning of fpring; and it continues to breed till the end of fum- 
mer. But, in general, its motions are determined by the migra- 
tions of the irnmenfe fhoals of herrings that come pouring down 
at that feafon through the Britifh Channel, and fupply all Europe, 
as well as this bird, with their fpoil. The gannet affiduoufly 
attends the fhoals in their pafTage, keeps with them in their whole 
circuit round our ifland, and (hares with our fimermen this 
exhauftlefs banquet. As it is ftrong of wing, it never comes 
near the land; but is conftant to its prey. Wherever the gan- 
net is feen, it is fure to announce to the fimermen the arrival of 
the finny tribe ; they then prepare their nets, and take the her- 


rings by millions at a draught; while the gannet, who came to 
give the firft information, comes, though an unbidden gueft, 
and often (hatches its prey from the fiflierman even in his boat. 
While the fifhing feafon continues, the gannets are bufily em- 
ployed ; but when the pilchards difappear from our coafts, the 
gannet takes its leave, to keep them company. 

The cormorant has been remarked for the quicknefs of his 
light; yet in this the gannet feems to exceed him. It is poflefTed 
of a tranfparent membrane under the eye-lid, with which it co- 
vers the whole eye at pleafure, without obfcuring the fight in 
the fmalleft degree. This feems a necefiary provifion for the 
fecurity of the eyes of fo weighty a creature, whofe method of 
taking prey, like that of the cormorant, is by darting headlong 
down from an height of an hundred feet and more into the wa- 
ter to feize it. Thefe birds are fometimes taken at fea, by faf- 
tening a pilchard to a board, which they leave floating. The 
gannet inftantly pounces down from above upon the board, and 
is killed or maimed by the fhock of a body where it expected no 
re fi fiance. 

Thefe birds breed but once a year, and lay but one egg, which 
being taken away, they lay another; if that be alfo taken, then a 
third; but never more for that feafon. Their egg is white, and 
rather lefs than that of the common goofe; and their neft large, 
compofed of fuch fubftances as are found floating on the furface 
of the fea. The young birds, during the firft year, differ greatly 
in colour from the old ones ; being of a dufky hue, fpeckled 
with numerous triangular white fpots; and at that time refem- 
bling the colours of the fpeckled diver. 

The Bafs ifland, where they chiefly breed, belongs to one pro- 
prietor ; fo that care is taken never to fright away the birds 
when laying, or to fhoot them upon the wing. ^y that means, 
they are fo confident as to alight and feed their young ones clofe 
befide you. They feed only upon fifh, as was obferved ; yet the 
young gannet is counted a great dainty by the Scots, and fold 
very dear ; fo that the lord of the iflet makes a confiderable an- 
nual profit by the fale. 



Offmaller Gulls and Petrels. 

AVING defcribed the manners of the great ones of this 
tribe, thofe of the fmaJler kinds may be eafily inferred. 
They refemble the more powerful in their appetites for prey, but 
have not fuch certain methods of obtaining it. In general, there- 
fore, the induftry of this tribe and their audacity increafe in pro- 
portion to their imbecility; the great gulls live at the moft re- 
mote di fiance from man ; the fmaller are obliged to refide where- 
ever they can take their prey, and to come into the moft popu- 
lous places when folitude can no longer grant them a fupply. In 
this clafs we may place the gull, properly fo called, of which 
there are above twenty different kinds; the petrel, of which 
there are three; and the fea-fwallow, of which there are as many. 
The gulls may be diftinguifhed by an angular knob on the 
lower chap; the petrels by their wanting this knob ; and the fea 
fwallow by their 'bills, which are ftraight, {lender, and fliarp 
pointed. They all, however, agree in their appetites and their 
places of abode. 

The gull, and all its varieties, is very well known in every 
part of the kingdom. It is feen with a flow-failing flight hover- 
ing over rivers to prey upon the fmaller kinds of rim ; it is feen 
following the ploughman in fallow fields to pick up infefts; and 
when living animaj food does not offer, it has even been known 
to eat carrion, and whatever elfe of the kind offers. Gulls 
are found in great plenty in every place ; but it is chiefly round 
our bolder! rockieft mores, that they are feen in the greateft 
abundance; At is there that the gull breeds and brings up its 
youna; ; it is there that millions of them are heard fcreaming 
with difcordant notes for months together. 

Thofe who have been much upon our coafts, know that there 
are two different kinds of fhores ; that which Hants down to the 
water with a gentle declivity, and that which rifes with a pre- 


cipitate boldnefs, and feems fet as a bulwark to repel the force 
of the invading deeps. It is to fuch fhores as thefe that the 
whole tribe of the gull kind refort, as the rocks offer them a re- 
treat for their young, and the fea a fufficient fupply. It is 
in the cavities of thefe rocks, of which the more is compofed, 
that the vaft variety of fea-fov/ls retire to breed in fafety. The 
waves beneath, that continually beat at the bafe, often wear the 
fhore into an impending boldnefs; fo that it feems to jut out 
over the water, while the raging of the fea makes the place in- 
acceflible from below. Thefe are the fituations to which fea- 
fowl chiefly refort, and bring up their young in undifturbed 

Thofe who have never obferved our boldeft coafts, have no 
idea of their tremendous fublimity. The boafted works of art, 
the higheft towers, and the nobleft domes, are but ant-hills when 
put in comparifon : the fmgle cavity of a rock often exhibits a 
coping higher than the ceiling of a gothic cathedral. The face 
of the more offers to the view a wall of maffive ftone ten times 
higher than our talleft fleeples. What mould we think of a pre- 
cipice three quarters of a mile in height ; and yet the rocks of 
St. Kilda are ftill higher! What muft be our awe to approach 
the edge of that impending height, and to look down on the un- 
fathomable vacuity below ; to ponder on the terrors of falling to 
the bottom, where the waves that fwell like mountains, are 
fcarcely feen to curl on the furface, and the roar of an ocean a 
thoufand leagues broad appears fofter than the murmur of a 
brook ! It is in thefe formidable manfions that myriads of fea- 
fowls are for ever feen fporting, flying in fecurity down the depth, 
half a mile beneath the feet of the fpe&ator. The crow and the 
chough avoid thofe frightful precipices; they choofe fmaller 
heights, where they are lefs expofed to the tempeft ; it is the 
cormorant, the gannet, the tarrock, and the terne, Ait venture 
to thefe dreadful retreats, and claim an undifturbed pofTefllon. 
To the fpeclator from above thofe birds, though fome of them 
are above the fize of an eagle, feem fcarce as large as a f wallow; 
and their loudeft fcreaming is fcarce perceptible. 


But the generality of our fhores are not fo formidable. 
Though they may rife two hundred fathom above the furface 5 
yet it often happens, that the water forfakes the fhore at the de- 
parture of the tide, and leaves a noble and delightful walk for 
curiofity on the beach. Not to mention the variety of {hells 
with which the fand is ftrewed, the lofty rocks that hang over 
the fpedt-ator's head, and that feem but juft kept from falling, 
produce in him no unpleafing gloom. If to this be added the 
fluttering, the fcreaming, and the purfuits of myriads of water- 
birds, all either intent on the duties of incubation, or roufed 
at the prefence of a ftranger, nothing can compofe a fcene of 
more peculiar folemnity. To walk along the Ihore when 
the tide is departed, or to fit in the hollow of a rock when it is 
come in, attentive to the various founds that gather on every 
fide, above and below, may raife the mind to its higheft and 
nobleft exertions. The folemn roar of the waves, fwelling into, 
and fubfiding from the vaft caverns beneath, the piercing note 
of the gull, the frequent chatter of the guillemot, the loud note 
of the auk, the fcream of the heron, and the hoarfe, deep, periodi- 
cal croaking of the cormorant, all unite to furnifh out the gran- 
deur of the fcene, and turn the mind to HIM who is the eflence 
of all fublimity. 

Yet it often happens, that the contemplation of a fea-fhoref 
produces ideas of an humbler kind, yet ftill not unpleafing. The 
various arts of thefe birds to feize their prey, and fometimes to 
elude their purfuers, their fociety among each other, and their 
tendernefs and care of their young, produce gentler fenfations. 
It is ridiculous alfo now and then to fee their various ways of 
impofmg upon each other. It is common enough, for inftance, 
with the arctic gull, to purfue the kfler gulls fo long, that they 
drop their excrements through fear, which the hungry hunter 
fiuickiy gobies up before it ever reaches the water. In breed- 
mo- too they have frequent conteits : one bird, who has no neft 
of her own, attempts to difpofiefs another, and put herfelf in the 
place. This often happens among all the gull kind ; and I have 
feen the poor bird, thus difplaced by her more powerful invader,, 
fit near the neft in penfive difcontent, while the other feemed 



quite comfortable in her new habitation. Yet this place of pre- 
eminence is not eafily obtained; for the inftant the invader goes 
to fnatch a momentary fuftenance, the other enters upon her 
own, and always ventures another battle before fhe relinquifhes 
the juftnefs of her claim. The contemplation of a cliff thus 
covered with hatching birds affords a very agreeable entertain- 
ment ; and as they fit upon the ledges of the rocks, one above 
another, with their white breafts forward, the whole group has 
not unaptly been compared to an apothecary's fhop. 

Thefe birds, like all others of the rapacious kind, lay but few 
.eggs ; and hence, in many places, their number is daily feen to 
diminifh. The leflening of fo many rapacious birds may, at firft 
fight appear a benefit to mankind; but when we confider how 
many of the natives of our iflands are fuftained by their fiefh, 
either frefh or falted, we fhall find no fatisfaction in thinking 
that thefe poor people may in time lofe their chief fupport. The 
gull in general, as was faid 5 builds on the ledges of rocks, and 
lays fronv one egg to three, in a neft formed of long grafs and 
fea-weed. Moft of the kind are fifhy tafted, with black ftringy 
flefh: yet the young ones are better food; and of thefe, with 
feveral other birds of the penguin kind, the poor inhabitants of 
our northern iflands make their wretched banquets. They 
have been long ufed to no other food; and even falted gull can 
be relifhed by thofe who know no better. Almofl all delicacy 
is a relative thing ; and the man who repines at the luxuries of 
a well-ferved table, ftarves not for want but from comparifon. 
The luxuries of the poor are indeed coarfe to us, yet frill they 
are luxuries to thofe ignorant of better; and it is probable 
enough that a Kilda or Feroe man may be found to, out- 
doing Apicius himfclf, in confulting the pleafures of the table. 
Indeed, if it be true that fuch meat as is the moft dangeroufly 
earned is the fweeteft, no man can dine fo luxuriouily as theie, 
as none venture fo hardly in the purfuit of a dinner. In Jacob- 
fon's hiftory of the Feroe Iflands, we have an account of the 
method in which thofe birds are taken; and I will deliver it in 
his own fimple manner. 

VOL. III. K k 


" It cannot be expreffed with what pains and danger they take 
thefe birds in thofe high, fteep cliffs, whereof many are two 
hundred fathoms high. But there are men, apt by nature and 
fit for the work, who take them ufually in two manners : they 
cither climb from below into thofe high promontories, that are 
as ftccp as a wall; or they let themfclves down with a rope 
from above. When they climb from below, they have a pole 
five or fix ells long, with an iron hook at the end, which they 
that are below in the boat, or on the cliff, faften unto the man's 
girdle, helping him up thus to the higheft place where he can get 
footing: afterwards they alfo help up another man; and thus 
feveral climb up as high as poflibly they can; and where they 
find difficulty, they help each other up, by thrufting one another 
up with their poles. When the firft hath taken footing, he 
draws the other up to him, by the rope fattened to his waift ; and 
fo they proceed, till they come to the place where the birds build. 
They there go about as well as they can, in thofe dangerous 
places; the one holding the rope at one end, and fixing himfelf 
to the rock ; the other going at the other end from place to 
place. If it fhould happen that he chanceth to fall, the other 
that Hands firm, keeps him up, and helps him up again. But 
if he paffeth fafe, he likewife faftens himfelf till the other has paf- 
fod the fame dangerous place alfo. Thus they go about the 
cliffs after birds as they pleafe. It often happeneth, however, 
the more is the pity, that when one doth not ftand faft enough, 
or is not fufficiently ftrong to hold up the other in his fall, that 
they both fall down and are killed. In this manner fome do 
perim every year." 

Mr. Peter Clanfon, in his defcription of Norway, writeth, 
that there was anciently a law in that country, that whofoever 
climbed fo on the cliffs, that he fell down and died, if the body 
was found, before burial, his next kinfman fhould go the fame 
way; but if he durft not, or could not do it, the dead body was 
jiot then to be buried in fancliified earth, as the perfon was too 
full of temerity and his own deftroyer. 

" When the fowlers are come, in the manner aforefaid, to the 
birds within the cliffs, where people feldom come, the birds arc 


fo tame that they take them with their hands; for they will 
hot readily leax'e their young. But when they are wild, they 
cart a net, with which they are provided, over them, and in- 
tangle them therein. In the mean time, there lieth a boat be- 
neath in the fea, wherein they carl the birds killed; and in this 
manner they can, in a fhort time, fill a boat with fowl. When 
it is pretty fair weather, and there is good fowling, the fowlers 
flay in the cliffs feven or eight days together ; for there are herd 
and there holes in the rocks, where they can fafely reft; and 
they have meat let down to them with a line from the top of 
the mountain. In the mean time, fome go every day to them, 
to fetch home what they have taken* 

" Some rocks are fo difficult, that they can in no manner get 
unto them from below ; wherefore they feek to come down there- 
unto from above. For this purpofe, they have a rope> eighty 
or a hundred fathoms long, made of hemp, and three fingers 
thick; The fowler maketh the end of this faft about his waift> 
and between his legs, fo that he can fit thereon, and is thus let 
down, with the fowling flaff in his hand. Six men hold by the 
rope, and let him eafily down, laying a large piece of wood on 
the brink of the rock, upon which the rope glided^ that it may 
not be worn to pieces by the hard and rough edge of the fl-one^ 
They have, befides, another fmall line, that is fattened to the 
fowler's body ; on which he pulleth, to give them notice how 
they fhould let down the great rope, either lower or higher; or 
to hold ftill, that he may flay in the place whereunto he is come* 
Here the man is in great danger, becaufe of the flones that are 
loofened from the clifF, by the fwingmg of the rope, and he can- 
not avoid them. To remedy this, in fome meafure, he hath 
ufually on his head, a feaman's thick and fhaggy cap, which 
defends him from the blows of the ftories, if they be not too bio- * 
and then it cofteth him his life : neverthelefs, they continually 
put themfelves in that danger, for the Wretched body's food- 
fake, hoping in God's mercy and protection, unto which the 
greateft part of them do devoutly recommend themfelves when 
they go to work : other wife, they fay, there is no other great: 
danger in it, except that it is a toilforne and artificial labour; 


for he that hath not learned to be fo let down, and is not ufed 
thereto, is turned about with the rope, fo that he foon groweth 
giddy, and can do nothing; but he that hath learned the art, 
confiders it as a fport, fwings himfelf on the rope, fets his feet 
againft the rock, cafts himfelf fome fathoms from thence, and 
fhoots himfelf to what place he will : he knows where the birds 
are, he underftands how to fit on the line in the air, and how 
to hold the fowling- ftaff in his hand; ftriking therewith the 
birds that come or fly away : and when there are holes in the 
rock, and it ftretches itfelf out, making underneath as a del- 
ing, under which the birds are, he knoweth how to {hoot him- 
felf in among them, and there take firm footing. There, when 
he is in thefe holes, he maketh himfelf loofe of the rope, which 
he faftens to a crag of the rock, that it may not flip from him 
to the outfide of the cliff. He then goes about in the rock, 
taking the fowl, either with his hands or with the fowling-ftaff. 
Thus, when he hath killed as many birds as he thinks fit, he 
ties them in a bundle, and fallens them to a little rope, giving 
a figri, by pulling, that they fhould draw them up. When he 
has wrought thus the whole day, and defires to get up again, 
he fitteth once more upon the great rope, giving a new fign, 
that they fhould pull him up; or clfe he worketh himfelf up, 
climbing along the rope, with his girdle full of birds. It is alfo 
ufual, where there are not folks enough to hold the great rope, 
for the fowler to drive a poft Hoping into the earth, and to make 
a rope faft thereto, by which he lets himfelf down, without any 
body's help, to work in the manner aforefaid. Some rocks are 
fo formed, that the perfon can go into their cavities by land. 

, " Thefe manners are more terrible and dangerous to fee than 
to defcribe ; efpecially if one confiders the fteepnefs and height 
of the rocks, it feeming impofTible for a man to approach them, 
much lefs to climb or defcend. In fome places, the fowlers are 
feen climbing, where they can only fallen the ends of their toes 
and fingers ; not fhunning fuch places, though there be an hun- 
dred fathom between them and the fea. It is a dear meat for 
thefe poor people, for which they mud venture their lives ; and 
many, after long venturing, do at lad pcrifh therein. 


" When the fowl is brought home, a part thereof is eaten 
frefh ; another part, when there is much taken, being hung up 
for winter provifion. The feathers are gathered, to make mer- 
chandize of, for other expences. The inhabitants get a great 
many of thefe fowls, as God giveth his bleffing and fit weather. 
When it is dark and hazy, they take moft ; for then the birds 
fray in the rocks : but in clear weather, and hot fun-fhine, they 
feek the fea. When they prepare to depart for the feafon, they 
keep themfelves moft there, fitting on the cliffs towards the fea- 
fide, where people get at them fometimes with boats, and take 
them with fowling-ftaves." 

Such is the account of this hiftorian ; but we are not to fup- 
pofe that all the birds caught in this manner, are of the gull 
kind; on the contrary, numbers of them are of the penguin 
kind ; auks, puffins and guillemots. Thefe all come, once a 
feafon, to breed in thefe recefTes ; and retire in winter, to fifh in 
more fouthern climates. 


Of the Penguin Kind: and firfl of the Great 
Magellanic Penguin. 

TH E gulls are long winged, fwift flyers, that hover over 
the moft extenfive feas, and dart down upon fuch fifh 
as approach too near the furface. The penguin kind are but ill 
fitted for flight, and ftill lefs for walking. Every body muft have 
feen the aukward manner in which a duck, either wild or tame, 
attempts to change place : they muft recoller. with what foft- 
nefs and eafe a gull or a kite waves its pinions, and with what 
a coil and flutter the duck attempts to move them; how many 
flrokes it is obliged to give, in order to gather a little air ; and 
even when it is thus raifed, how foon it is fatigued with the 
force of its exertions, and obliged to take reft again. But the 
duck is not, in its natural ftate, half fo unwieldy an animal as 


whole tribe of the penguin kind. Their wings are much fhort- 
er, more fcantily furnifhed with quills, and the whole pinion 
placed too forward, to be ufefully employed. For this reafon, 
the largeft of the penguin kind, that have a thick, heavy body 
to raife, cannot fly at all. Their wings ferve them rather as pad- 
dles to help them forward, when they attempt to move Aviftly ; 
and in a manner walk along the furface of the water. Even 
the frnaller kind feldom fly by choice ; they flutter their wings 
with the fwiftcft efforts, without making way ; and though they 
have but a fmall weight of body to fuftain, yet they feldom ven- 
ture to quit the water where they are provided with food and 

As the wings of the penguin tribe are unfitted for flight, their 
legs are {till more aukwardly adapted for walking. This whole 
tribe have all above the knee hid within the belly ; and nothing 
appears but two fliort legs, or feet, as fome would call them, 
that feem ftuck under the rump, and upon which the animal is 
very aukwardly fuppcrted. They feem, when fitting, or at- 
tempting to walk, like a dog that has been taught to fit up, or 
to move a minuet. Their fhort legs drive the body in progreflion 
from fide to fide; and were they not affifted by their wino-s, 
they could fcarcely move fafter than a tortife. 

This aukward pofition of the legs, which fo unqualifies them 
for living upon land, adapts them admirably for a refidence in 
water. In that, the legs placed behind the moving body, puflies 
it forward with greater velocity; and thefe birds, like Indian 
canoes, are the fwifteft in the water, by having the paddles in 
the rear. Our failors, for this reafon, give thefe birds the very 
homely, but exprefiive, name of arfe-feet. 

Nor are they lefs qualified for diving than for fwimming. By 
ever fo little inclining their bodies forward, they lofe their centre 
of gravity ; and every ftroke from their feet only tends to fink 
them the fafter. In this mariner they can either dive at once to 
the bottom, or fwi'm between two waters ; where they continue 
fifhing for fome minutes, and then afcending, catch an inftanta- 
ncous breath, to dcfcend once more to renew their operations. 


Hence it is that thefe bird?, which are fo defencelcfs, and fo eafily 
taken by land, are impregnable by wafer. If they perceive them- 
felves purfued in the leaft, they inftantly fink, and (hew nothing 
more than their bilk, till the enemy is withdrawn. Their very 
internal conformation afliits their power of keeping Ions; under 
water. Their lungs are fitted with numerous vacuities, by 
which they can take in a very large infpiration; aud this pro- 
bably ferves them for a length of time. 

As they never vifit land, except when they come to breed, 
their feathers take a colour from their fituation. That part of 
them v/hich has been continually bathed in the water, is white; 
while their backs and wings are of different colours, according 
to the different fpecies. They are alfo covered more warmly all 
over the body with feathers, than any other birds whatever; fo 
that the fea feems entirely their element ; and but for the necef- 
fary duties of propagating the fpecies, we fhould fcarcely have 
the fmalleft opportunity of feeing them, and fhould be utterly 
unacquainted with their 

Of all this tribe the magellanic penguin is the largeft, and the 
moft remarkable. In fize it approaches near that of a tame 
goofe. It never flies, as its wings are very fliort, and covered 
with ftifF hard feathers, and are always feen expanded, and hang- 
ing ufelefsJy down by the bird's fides. The upper part of the 
head, back and rump, are covered with ftiff, black, feathers ; 
while the belly and bread, as is common with all of this kind, 
are of a fnowy whitenefs, except a line of black, that is feen to 
crofs the crop. The bill, which from the bafe to about half way 
is covered with wrinkles, is black, but marked crofswife with 
a ftripe of yellow. They walk erer, with their heads on high, 
their fin-like wings hanging down like arms ; fo that to fee 
them at a diftance, they look like fo many children with whits 
apron?. From hence they arc faid to unite in themfelves, the 
qualities of men, fowls and fifties. Like men, they are upright; 
like fowls, they are feathered, and like fifties, they have fin-like 
inftruments, that beat the water before, and ferve for all the pur- 
pofes of fwimming rarhsr 'than flying. 


They feed upon fifh ; and feldom come a/hore, except in 
the breeding- feafon. As the feas in that part of the world, 
abound with a variety, they feldom want food ; and their ex- 
treme fatnefs feems a proof of the plenty in which they live. 
They dive with great rapidity, and are voracious to a great 
degree. One of them, defcribed by Clufius, though but very 
young, would fwallow an entire herring at a mouthful, and 
often three fucceffively before it was appeafed. In confequence 
of this gluttonous appetite, their flefh is rank and fifhy ; though 
our failors fay, that it is pretty good eating. In fome, the fiefh 
is fo tough, and the feathers fo thick, that they ftand the blow 
of a fcymitar without injury. 

They are a bird of fociety ; and efpecially when they come 
on fhore, they are feen drawn up in rank and file, upon the 
ledge of a rock, (landing together with the albatrofs, as if in 
confutation. This is previous to their laying, which gene- 
rally begins in that part of the world in the month of Novem- 
ber. Their preparations for laying are attended with no great 
trouble, as a fmall depreffion in the earth, without any other 
neft, ferves for this purpofe. The warmth of their feathers 
and the heat of their bodies is fuch, that the progrefs of incuba- 
tion is carried on very rapidly. 

But there is a difference in the manner of this bird's neftling 
in other countries; which I can only afcribe to the frequent dif- 
turbances it has received from man or quadrupeds in its recefles. 
In fome places, inftead of contenting itfelf with a fuperficial 
depreffion in the ground, the penguin is found to burrow two 
or three yards deep : in other places it is feen to forfake the level, 
and to clamber up the ledge of a rock, where it lays its egg, 
and hatches it in that bleak, expofed fituation. Thefe precau- 
tions may probably have been taken, in confequence of dear 
bought experience. In thofe countries where the bird fears for 
her own fafety, or that of her young, fhe may providentally pro- 
vide againft danger, by digging, or even by climbing ; for both 
which flie is but ill adapted by nature. In thofe places, how- 
ever, where the penguin has had but few vifits from man, her 
neft is made with the moil confident fecurity, in the middle of 


forne large plain, where they are feen by thoufands. In that 
unguarded fituation, neither expecting nor fearing a powerful 
enemy, they continue to fit brooding ; and even when man comes 
amono- them, have at firft no apprenenfion of their danger. Some 
of this tribe have been called, by our feamen^ the booby, from the 
total infenfibility which they (hew when they are fought to their 
deftru&ion. But it is not confidered that thefe birds have never 
been taught to know the dangers of an human enemy : it is 
againft the fox or the vulture that they have learned to defend 
themfelves ; but they have no idea of injury from a being fo very 
unlike their natural oppofers. The penguins, therefore, when 
our feamen firft came among them, tamely fuffered themfelves 
to be knocked on the head, without even attempting an efcape. 
They have flood to be fhot at in flocks^ without offering to 
move, in filent wonder, till every one of their number has been 
deftroyed. Their attachment to their nefts was ftill more power- 
ful ; for the females tamely fuffered the men to approach and 
take their eggs without any refiftance. But the experience of 
a few of thofe unfriendly vifits, has long fince taught them to 
be more upon their guard in choofing their fituations ; or to 
leave thofe retreats where they were fo little able to oppofe their 

The penguin lays but one egg ; and, in frequented mores* 
is found to burrow like a rabbit: fometimes three or four take 
poffefEon of one hole, and hatch their young together* In the 
holes of the rocks, where nature has made them a retreat, feveral 
of this tribe, as Linnaeus affures us, are feen together. There 
the females lay their fmgle egg in a common neft, and fit upon 
this, their general poffeffion, by turns ; while one is placed as a 
centinel, to give warning of approaching danger. The egg of 
the penguin, as well as of all this tribe, is very large for the fize 
of the bird, being generally found bigger than that of a goofe* 
But as there are many varieties of the penguin, and as they differ 
in fize, from that of a Mufcovy duck to a fvvan, the eggs differ 
in the fame proportion* 




Of tie Auk, Puffin, and other Birds of the Penguin Kind. 

OF a fize far inferior to the penguin, but with nearly the 
fame form, and exactly of the fame appetites and manners, 
there is a very numerous tribe. Thefe frequent our mores, and, 
like the penguin, have their legs placed behind. They have 
fhort wings, which are not totally incapable of flight; with round 
bills for feizing their prey, which is fifh. They live upon the 
water, in which they are continually feen diving; and feldom 
venture upon land, except for the purpofes of continuing their 

The firft of this fmaller tribe is the great northern diver ? 
which is nearly of the fize of a goofe: it is beautifully varie- 
gated all over with many ftripes, and differs from the penguin, 
in being much flenderer and more elegantly formed. The grey 
fpeckled diver does not exceed the fize of a Mufcovy duck : and, 
except in fize, greatly refembles the former. The auk, which 
breeds on the iflands of St. Kilda, chiefly differs from the 
penguin in fize and colour. It is fmaller than a duck ; and the 
whole of the bread and belly, as far as the middle of the throat, 
is white. The guillemot is about the fame fize; it differs from 
the auk, in having a longer, a flenderer, and a ftraighter bill. 
The fcarlet throated diver may be diftinguifhed by its name; 
arid the puffin or coulterneb, is one of the moft remarkable 
birds we know. 

Words cannot eafily defcribe the form of the bill of the puffin, 
which differs fo greatly from that of any other bird. Thofe 
who have feen the coulter of a plough, may form fome idea of 
the beak of this odd looking animal. The bill is flat; but, very 
different from that of the duck, its edge is upwards. It is of a 
triangular figure, and ending in a {harp point ; the upper chap 
bent a little downward, where it is joined to the head: and a 
Certain callous fubftance eucompaflLng its bafe, as in parrots* 


It is of two colours ; afh -coloured near the bafe, and red towards 
the point. It has three furrows or grooves imprefled in it ; one 
in the livid part, two in the red. The eyes are fenced with a 
protuberant fkin, of a livid colour ; and they are grey or am- 
coloured. Thefe are marks fufficient todiftinguifh this bird by; 
but its value to thofe in whofe vicinity it breeds, renders it ftill 
more an object of curiofity. 

The puffin, like all the reft of this kind, has its legs thrown 
fo far back, that it can hardly move without tumbling. This 
makes it rife with difficulty, and fubject to many falls before it 
gets upon the wing; but as it is afmall bird, not much bigger 
than a pigeon, when it once rifes, it can continue its flight with 
great celerity. 

Both this and all the former build no neft; but lay their eggs 
either in the crevices of rocks, or in holes under ground, near the 
fhore. They chiefly choofe the latter fituation ; for the puffin, 
the auk, the guillemot, and the reft, cannot eafily rife to the 
neft when in a lofty fituation. Many are the attempts thefe 
birds are feen to make to fly up to thofe nefts which are fo high 
above the furface. In rendering them inaeceffible to mankind, 
they often render them almoft inacceffible to themfelves. They 
are frequently obliged to make three or four efforts, before they 
arrive at the place of incubation, For this reafon, the auk and 
guillemot, when they have once laid their fingle egg, which is 
extremely large for their fize, feldom forfake it until it is ex- 
cluded. The male, who is better furnifhed for flight, feeds the 
female during this interval ; and fo bare is the place where fhe 
fits, that the egg would often roll down from the rock, did not 
the body of the bird fupport it. 

But the puffin feldom choofes thefe inacceffible and trouble- 
fome heights for its fituation. Relying on its courage, and the 
ftrength of its bill, with which it bites moft terribly, it cither 
makes or finds a hole in the ground, where to lay and bring 
forth its young. All the winter, thefe birds, like the reft, are 
abfent ; vifiting regions too remote for difcovery. At the lat- 
ter end of March, or the beginning of April, come over a troop 


of their fpies or harbingers, that ftay two or three days, as it 
were, to view and fearch out for their former fituations, and fee 
xvhether all be well. This done, they once more depart; and 
about the beginning of May, return again with the whole ar- 
my of their companions. But if the feafon happens to be flormy 
and tempeftuous, and the fea troubled, the unfortunate voyagers 
undergo incredible hardfhips ; and they are found, by hundreds, 
caft away upon the fhores, lean and perifhed with famine.* It 
is moft probable, therefore, that this voyage is performed more 
on the water than in the air ; and as they cannot fifh in ftormy 
weather, their ftrength is exhaufted before they can arrive at 
their wifhed-for harbour. 

The puffin, when it prepares for breeding, which always hap- 
pens a few days after its arrival, begins to fcrape up an hole in 
the ground not far from the fhore, and when it has fome way 
penetrated the earth ? it then throws itfelf upon its back, and 
with bill and claws thus burrows inward, till it has dug a hole 
with feveral windings and turnings, from eight to ten feet deep. 
It particularly feeks to dig under a (lone, where it expects the 
greateft fecurity. In this fortified retreat it lays one egg $ 
vyhich, though the bird be not much bigger than a pigeon, is of 
the fize of that of a hen. 

When the young one is excluded, the parent's induftry and 
courage is incredible. Few birds or beafts will venture to at- 
tack, them in their retreats. When the great fea-raven, as 
Jacobfon informs us, comes to take away their young, the puf- 
iins boldly oppofe him. Their meeting affords a moft fmgular 
combat. As foon as the raven approaches, the puffin catches 
him under the throat with its beak, and flicks its claws into his 
breaft, which makes the raven, with a loud fcreaming, attempt 
to get away ; but the little bird ftill holds faft to the invade^, 
nor lets him go till they both come to the fea, where they drop 
down together, and the raven is drowned: yet the raven is but 
too often fuccefsful ; and invading the puffin at the bottom of 
its hole> devours both the parent and its family. 

t Willoughby's Orn-th, p. 326. 


But were a punifhment to be inflicted for immorality in ir- 
rational animals, the puffin is juftly a fufferer from iavafion, as 
it is often itfelf one of the moft terrible invaders. Near the Ifle 
of Anglefey, in an iflet called Priefholm, their flocks may be 
.compared, for multitude, to fwarms of bees. In another iflet, 
called the Calf of Man, a bird of this kind, but of a different 
fpecies, is feen in great abundance. In both places, numbers of 
rabbits are found to breed ; but the puffin, unwilling to be at the 
trouble of making a hole, when there is one ready made, dif- 
pofleiTes the rabbits, and it is not unlikely deftroys their young. 
It is in thefe unjuftly acquired retreats that the young puffins 
are found in great numbers, and become a very valuable acqui- 
fition to the natives of the place. The old ones (I am now 
fpeaking of the Manks puffin) early in the morning, at break 
of day, leave their nefts and young, and even the ill and, nor 
do they return till night-fall. All this time they are diligently 
employed in fifliing for their young ; fo that their retreats on 
land, which in the morning were loud and clamorous, are now 
ftill and quiet, with not a wing {Hiring till the approach of dufk, 
when their fcreams once more announce their return. Whatever 
fifh, or other food, they have procured in the day, by night be- 
gins to fuffer a kind of half digeftion, and is reduced to an oily 
matter, which is ejected from the ftomach of the old ones into 
the mouth of the young, By this they are nourifhed, and be- 
come fat to an amazing degree. When they are arrived to their 
full growth, they who are intrufted by the lord of the ifland, draw 
them from their holes ; and, that they may more readily keep an 
account of the number they take, cut off one foot as a token. 
Their flefh is faid to be exceflively rank, as they feed upon fifh, 
efpecially fprats and fea-weed ; however, when they are pickled 
and preferved with fpices, they are admired by thofe who are 
fond of high eating. We are told, that formerly their flefh was 
allowed by the church on Lenten days. They were at that time, 
alfo taken by ferrets, as we do rabbits. At prefent, they are 
either dug out, or drawn out, from their burrows, with an hooked 
flick. They bite extremely hard, and keep fuch faft hold of what- 
foever they feize upon, as not to be eafily difcngaged. Their 


noife when taken is very difagreeable, being like the efforts of a 
dumb perfon attempting to fpeak. 

The conftant depredation, which thefe birds annually fuffer, 
does not in the leaft feem to intimidate them, or drive them away: 
on the contrary, as the people fay, the neft mull be robbed, or 
the old ones will breed there no longer. All birds of this kind 
lay but one egg ; yet if that be taken away, they will lay ano- 
ther, and fo on to a third ; which feems to imply that robbing 
their nefts does not much intimidate them from laying again. 
Thofe, however, whofe nefts have been thus deftroyed, are often 
too late in bringing up their young; who, if they be not fledged 
and prepared for migration when all the reft depart, are left at 
land to mift for themfelves. In Auguft, the whole tribe is feen 
to take leave of their fummer refidence ; nor are they obferved 
any more till the return of the enfuing fpring. It is probable 
that they fail away to more fouthern regions, as our mariners 
frequently fee myriads of water-fowl upon their return, and 
fleering ufually to the north. Indeed, the coldeft countries feem 
to be their moft favourite retreats ; and the number of water* 
fowl is much greater in thofe colder climates, than in the warm- 
er regions, near the line. The quantity of oil which abounds 
in their bodies, ferves as a defence againft cold, and preferves 
them in vigour againft its feverity; but the fame provifion of 
oil is rather detrimental in warm countries, as it turns rancid, 
and many of them die of diforders which arife from its putrefac- 
tion. In general, however, water-fowl can be properly faid to 
be of no climate; the element upon which they live being their 
proper refidence. They necefTarily fpend a few months of fum- 
mer upon land to bring up their young : but the reft of their 
time is probably confumed in their migration, or near fome un- 
known coafts, where their provifion of fifli is found in greatefl 

Before I go to the third general divifion of water-fowls, it 
may not be improper to obferve, that there is one fpecies of 
round-billed water-fowl, that does not properly lie within any 
of the former diftributions. This is the goofe-ander; a bird 
with the body and wings fhaped like thofe of the penguin kind s 


tut with legs not hid in the belly. It may be diftinguifhed from 
all others by its bill, which is round, hooked at the point, and 
toothed, both upper and under chap, like a faw. Its colours are 
various and beautiful : however, its manners and appetites en- 
tirely refemble thofe of the diver. It feeds upon fifh, for which 
it dives; and is faid to build its neft upon trees, like the heron 
and the cormorant. It feems to form the made between the 
penguin and the goofe kind: having a round bill, like the one; 
and unembarrafled legs, like the other. In the ihape of the head, 
neck and body, it refembles them both. 



Of Birds of the Goofe Kind^ properly fo called. 

HE fwan, the goofe, and the duck, are leaders of a nume- 
rous, ufeful, and beautiful tribe of birds, that we have re- 
claimed from a ftate of nature, and have taught to live independ- 
ence about us. To defcribe any of thefe would be as fuperflu- 
ous as definitions ufually are, when given of things with which 
we are already well acquainted. There are few that have not 
had opportunities of feeing them, and whofe ideas would not an- 
ticipate our defcription. But, though nothing be fo eafyas to 
diftinguim thefe in general from each other, yet the largeft of the 
duck kind approach the goofe fo nearly, that it may be proper to 
mark the diftin&ions. 

The marks of the goofe are, a bigger body, large wings, 2 
longer neck, a white ring about the rump, a bill thicker at the 
bafe, flenderer towards the tip, with fliorter legs, placed more 
forward on the body. They both have a waddling walk ; but 
the duck, from the pofition of its legs; has it in a greater degree. 
By thefe marks, thefe fimilar tribes may be known afunder; and 
though the duck mould be found to equal the goofe in fize, which 
fometimes happens, yet there are ilill other fufficient diftinc- 


But they all agree in many particulars ; and have a nearer af- 
finity to each other than the neighbouring kinds in any other de- 
partment. Their having been tamed has produced alterations 
in each, by which they differ as much from the wild ones of their 
refpe&ive kinds, as they do among themfelves. There is nearly 
as much difference between the wild and the tame duck, as be- 
tween fonie forts of the duck and the goofe; but ftill, the cha- 
racteriftics of the kind are ftrongly marked and obvious ; and this 
tribe can never be miftaken. 

The bill is the firft great obvious diftinHon of the goofe kind 
from all of the feathered tribe. In other birds it is round and 
wedge-like, or crooked at the end. In all the goofe kind it is flat 
and broad, made for the purpofes of fkimming ponds and lakes of 
the mantling weeds that ftand on the furface. The bills of other 
birds are made of an horny fubftance throughout ; thefe have 
their inoffenfive bills fheathed with a fkin which covers them all 
over. The bill of every other bird feems in fome meafure form- 
ed for piercing or tearing ; theirs are only fitted for {hoveling up 
their food, which is chiefly of the vegetable kind. ( 

Though thefe birds do not rejec-t animal food when offered 
them, yet they can contentedly fubfift upon vegetables, and fel- 
dom feek any other. They are eafily provided for ; wherever 
there is water, there feems to be plenty. All the other web- 
footed tribes are continually voracious, continually preying. 
Thefe lead more harmlefs lives : the weeds on the furface of the 
water, or the infedts at the bottom, the grafs by the bank, or the 
fruits and corn in cultivated grounds, are fufficient to fatisfy 
their eafy appetites : yet thefe, like every other animal, will not 
reject fleih, if properly prepared for them; it is fufficient praife 
to them, that they do not eagerly purfue it. 

As their food is chiefly vegetables, fo their fecundity is in pro- 
portion. We have had frequent opportunities to obferve, that all 
the predatory tribes, whether of birds or quadrupeds, are barren 
and unfruitful. We have feen the lion with its two cubs; the 
eagle with the fame number; and the penguin with even but one. 
Nature, that has fupplied them with powers of deltruftion, has 

tt"ATE R-F O WL. 273 

denied them fertility. But it is otherwife with thefe harmlefs 
animals I am defcribing. They feem formed to fill lip th& 
chafms in animated nature, caufed by the voracioufnefs of others. 
They breed in great abundance, and lead their young to the pool 
the inftant they are excluded. 

As their food is fimple, fo their flefh is nourishing arid whole- 
fome. The fwan was confidered as a high delicacy among the 
ancients; the goofe was abftained from as totally indigeftible. 
Modern manners have inverted taftes ; the goofe is now become 
the favourite ; and the fwan is feldom brought to table unlefs for 
the purpofes of oftentation. But at all times the flefa of the 
duck was in high efteem ; the ancients thought even more highly 
of it than we do. We are contented to eat it as a delicacy ; they 
alfo confidered it as a medicine; and Plutarch affures us, that 
Cato kept his whole family in health, by feeding them with duck 
whenever they threatened to be o'ut of order. 

Thefe qualities of great fecundity, eafy fuflenance, and whole- 
forhe nourifhment, have been found fo confiderable as to induce 
man to take thefe birds from a ftate of nature and render them 
domeflic. How long they have been thus dependants upon his 
pleafures, is not known; for from the earlieft accounts, they were 
confidered as familiars about him. The time muft have been 
very remote ; for there have been many changes wrought in their 
colours, their figdres, and even their internal parts, by human 
cultivation. The different kinds of there birds, in a wild ftate, 
are fimple in their colourings : when one has feen a wild goofe or* 
a wild duck, a defcription of its plumage will, to a feather, ex- 
acHy correfpond with that of any other. But in the tame kinds 
no two of any fpecies are exa6Hy alike. Different in their fize, 
their colours, and frequently in their general form, they feem 
the mere creatures of art ; and, having been fo long dependant 
upon man for fupport, they feem to aflume forms entirely fuited 
to his pleafures or necefiities. 

VOL, III. M m 



Of the Swan^ tame and wild. 

NO bird makes a more indifferent figure upon land, or a 
more beautiful one in the water, than the fwan. When 
it afcends from its favourite element, its motions are aukward, 
and its neck is ftretched forward with an air of ftupidity; but 
when it is feen fmoothly failing along the water, commanding 
a thoufand graceful attitudes, moving at pleafure without the 
fmalleft effort, when it " proudly rows in ftate," as Milton 
has it, "with arched neck, between its white wings mantling,'" 
there is not a more beautiful figure in all nature. In the exhi- 
bition of its form, there are no broken or harfli lines : no con- 
tained or catching motions: but the roundeft contours, and 
the eafieft tranfitions : the eye wanders over every part with 
infatiable pleafure, and every part takes new grace with new 

This fine bird has long been rendered domeftic ; and it is 
now a doubt whether there be any of the tame kind in a ftate 
of nature. The wild fwan, though fo ftrongly refembling this 
in colour and form, is yet a different bird -, for it is very differ- 
ently formed within. The wild fwan is lefs than the tame by 
almoft a fourth ; for as the one weighs twenty pounds, the other 
only weighs fixteen pounds and three quarters. The colour of 
the tame fwan is all over white ; that of the wild bird is, along 
the back and the tips of the wings, of an afh-colour. But thefe 
are flight differences, compared to what are found upon diffec- 
tion. In the tame fwan, the windpipe finks down into the lungs 
in the ordinary manner ; but in the wild, after a ftrange and 
wonderful contortion, like what we have feen in the crane, it 
enters through a hole formed in the breaft-bone ; and being re- 
fte&ed therein, returns by the fame aperture ; and being con- 
tracted into a narrow compafs by a broad and bony cartilage, 


it is divided into two branches, which, before they enter the 
Jungs, are dilated, and, as it were, fwolen out into two cavities. 

Such is the extraordinary difference between thefe two ani- 
mals, which externally feem to be of one fpecies. Whether it 
is in the power of long continued captivity and domeftication 
to produce this ftrange variety, between birds otherwife the 
fame, I will not take upon me to determine. But certain it is, 
that our tame fwan is no where to be found, at leaft in Europe, 
in a ftate of nature. 

As it is not eafy to account for this difference of conformation, 
fo it is ftill more difficult to reconcile the accounts of the ancients 
with the experience of the moderns, concerning the vocal powers 
of this bird. The tame fwan is one of the moft filent of all 
birds ; and the wild one has a note extremely loud and difagree- 
able. It is probable, the convolutions of the windpipe may con- 
tribute to increafe the clangor of it; for fuch is the harmnefs of 
its voice, that the bird from thence has been called the hooper. 
In neither is there the fmalleft degree of melody; nor have they, 
for above this century, been faid to give fpecimens of the fmalleft 
mufical abilities; yet, not with (landing this, it was the general 
opinion of antiquity, that the fwan was a moft melodious bird; 
and that, even to its death, its voice went on improving. It 
would mew no learning to produce what they have faid upon the 
mufic of the fwan : it has already been collected by Aldrovan- 
dus ; and ftill more profefledly by the Abbe Gedoyn, in the 
Tranfa&ions of the Academy of Belles Lettres. From thefe 
accounts it appears, that, while Plato, Ariftotle, and Diodorus 
Siculus, believe the vocality of the fwan, Pliny and Virgil feem 
to doubt that received opinion. In this equipoife of authority, 
Aldrovandus feems to have determined in favour of the Greek 
philofophers ; and the form of the windpipe in the wild fwan, fo 
much refembling a mufical inftrument, inclined his belief ftill 
more ftrongly. In aid of this alfo, came the teftimony of Pen- 
dafius, who affirmed, that he had often heard fwans fweetly Ting- 
ing in the lake of Mantua, as he was rowed up and down in a, 
boat; as alfo of Olaus Wormius, who profeffcd that many of 
his friends and fcholars had heard them fmging. " There was," 


lays he, <c in my family, a very honed young man, John Rof- 
torph, a ftudent in divinity, and a Norwegian by nation. This 
man did, upon his credit, and with the interpofition of an oath, 
folemnly affirm, that once, in the territory of Dronten, as he 
was {landing on the fea-fhore, early in the morning, he heard an 
imufual and fweet murmur, compofed of moft pleafant whift- 
lings and founds ; he knew not at firft whence they came, or 
how they were made, for he faw no man near to produce them; 
but looking round about him, and climbing to the top of a certain 
promontory, he there efpied an infinite number of fwans gathered 
together in a bay, and making a moft delightful harmony : a fweet- 
er, in all his life-time, he had never heard." Thefe were ac- 
counts fufficient at leaft to keep opinion in fufpenfe, though in 
contradiction to our own experience; but Aldrovandus, to putj 
as he fuppofed, the queftion paft all doubt } gives us the testimony 
of a countryman of our own, from whom he had the relation. 
This honed man's name was mr. George Braun, who afTured 
him that nothing was more common in England, than to hear 
fwans fing ; that they were bred in great numbers in the fea, 
near London ; and that every fleet of (hips that returned from 
their voyages from diftant countries, were met by fwans, that 
came joyfully out to welcome their return, and falute them with 
a loud and chearful finging ! It was in this manner that Aldro- 
vandus, that great and good man, was frequently impofed upon 
by the defigning and the needy : his unbounded curiofity drew 
round him people of every kind, and his generofity was as ready 
to reward falfehood as truth Poor Aldrovandus ! after having 
fpent a vaft fortune, for the purpofes of enlightening mankind ; 
after having collected more truth and more falfehood than any 
man ever did before him, he little thought of being reduced at 
laft to want bread, to feel the ingratitude of his country, and to 
die a beggar in a public hofpital ! 

Thus it appears that our modern authorities, in favour of the 
finging of fwans, are rather fufpicious, ilnce they are reduced to 
this mr. George Braun, and John Roftorph, the native of a 
country remarkable for ignorance and credulity. It is probable 
the ancients had fome mythological meaning in afcribing melody 


to the fwan ; and as for the moderns, they fcarce defer ve our 
regard. The fwan, therefore, muft be content with that {hare 
of fame which it pofTefles on the fcore of its beauty ; fince the 
melody of its voice, without better teftimony, will fcarcely be 
admitted by even the credulous. 

This beautiful bird is as delicate in its appetites, as elegant 
in its form. Its chief food is corn, bread, herbs growing in the 
water, and roots and feeds, which are found near the margin. It 
prepares a neft in fome retired part of the bank, and chiefly where 
there is an iflet in the ftream. This is compofed of water-plants, 
long grafs and flicks ; and the male and female affift in forming 
it with great affiduity. The fwan lays {even or eight eggs, 
white, much larger than thofe of a goofe, with a hard, and fome- 
times a tuberous fhell. It fits near two months before its 
young are excluded; which are afti-coloured when they firft 
leave the fhell, and for fome months after. It is not a little dan- 
gerous to approach the old ones when their little family are feed- 
ing round them. Their fears, as well as their pride, feems to 
take the alarm ; and they have fometimes been known to give a 
blow with their pinion, that has broke a man's leg or arm. 

It is not till they are a twelve-month old, that the young 
fwans change their colour with their plumage. All the ftages 
of this bird's approach to maturity are flow, and feem to mark its 
longevity. It is two months hatching ; a year in growing to its 
proper fize ; and if, according to Pliny's obfervation, that thofe 
animals that are longeft in the womb are the longeil lived, the 
fwan is the longeft in the fliell of any bird we know, and is faid 
to be remarkable for its longevity. Some fay that it lives three 
hundred years; and Wilioughby, who is generally diffident 
enough, feems to believe the report. A goofe, as he juilly ob- 
ferves, has been known to live an hundred; and the fwan, from 
its fuperior fize, and from its harder, firmer flefh, may naturally 
be fuppofed to live flill longer. 

Swans were formerly held in fuch great efteem in England, 
that, by an atl of Edward the fourth, none, except the fon of the 
king, was permitted to keep a fvvari, unlefs pofTeffcd of five 


marks a year. By a fubfequent a6t, the punifhment for taking 
their eggs was imprifonment for a year and a day, and a fine at 
the king's will. At prefent they are but little valued for the 
delicacy of their flefh ; but many are ftill prefer ved for their 
beauty. We fee multitudes on the Thames and Trent ; but no 
where greater numbers than on the fait water inlet of the fea 
near Abbotfberry, in Dorfetfhire. 

C H A P. XL 

Of the Goofe and its varieties. 

TH E goofe, in its domeftic flate, exhibits a variety of co- 
lours. The wild goofe always retains the fame marks : the 
whole upper part is am -coloured ; the breaft and belly are of a dir- 
ty white ; the bill is narrow at the bafe, and at the tip it is black ; 
the legs are of a fafTron colour, and the claws black. Thefe 
marks are feldom found in the tame ; whofe bill is entirely red, 
and whofe legs are entirely brown. The wild goofe is rather 
lefs than the tame; but both invariably retain a white ring 
round their tail, which mews that they are both defcended from 
the fame original. 

The wild goofe is fuppofed to breed in the northern parts of 
Europe; and, in the beginning of winter, to defcend into more 
temperate regions. They are often feen flying at very great 
heights, in flocks from fifty to an hundred, and feldom refting by 
day. Their cry is frequently heard when they are at an imper- 
ceptible diftance above us ; and this feems bandied from one to 
the other, as among hounds in the purfuit. Whether this be 
the note of mutual encouragement, or the neceilary confe- 
quence of refpiration, is doubtful; but they feldom exert it 
when they alight in thefe journies. 

Upon their coming to the ground by day, they range them- 
felves in a line, like cranes, and feem rather to have defcended for 
reft than for other refrefhment. When they have fat in this man* 


net for an hour or two, I have heard one of them$ with a loud 
long note, found a kind of charge, to which the reft punctually 
attended, and they purfued their journey with renewed alacrity. 
Their flight is very regularly arranged: they either go in a line 
a breaft, or in two lines, joining in an angle in the middle. I 
doubt whether the form of their flight be thus arranged to cut 
the air with greater eafe, as is commonly believed. I am more 
apt to think it is to prefent a fmaller mark to fowlers from below. 
A bullet might eafily reach them, if huddled together in a flock, 
and the fame difcharge might deftroy feveral at once ; but, by the 
manner of flying, no (hot from below can affect above one of 
them, and from the height at which they fly, this is not eafy to 
be hit. 

The barnacle differs in fome refpects from both thefe; being 
lefs than either, with a black bill, much fhorter than either of the 
preceding. It is fcarce necefTary to combat the idle error of this 
bird's being bred from a fhell flicking to fhip's bottoms; it is 
well known to be hatched from an egg, in the ordinary manner, 
and to differ in very few particulars from all the reft of its kind. 

The brent goofe is ftill lefs than the former, and not bigger 
than a Mufcovy duck, except that the body is longer. The 
head, neck, and upper part of the breaft, are black; about 
the middle of the neck, on each fide, are two fmall fpots or lines 
of white, which together appear like a ring. 

Thefe, and many other varieties, are found in this kind, which 
agree in one common character, of feeding upon vegetables, and 
being remarkable for their fecundity. Of thefe, however, the 
tame goofe is the moft fruitful. Having lefs to fear from its ene- 
mies, leading a fecurer and a. more plentiful life, its prolific pow- 
ers increafe in proportion to its eafe ; and though the wild goofe 
feldom lays above eight eggs, the tame goofe is often feen to lay 
above twenty. The female hatches her eggs with great affiduity, 
while thq. gander vifits her twice or thrice a day, and fometimes 
drives her off to take her place, where he fits with great ftate and 


But beyond that of all animals is his pride when the young are 
excluded : he feems then to confider himfelf as a champion not 
only obliged to defend his young, but alfo to keep off the fufpi- 
cion of dangers; he purfues dogs and men that never attempt to 
moleft him; and, though the moft harmlefs thing alive, is then 
the moft petulant and provoking. When, in this manner, he has 
purfued the calf or the maftiff, to whofe contempt alone he is in- 
debted for fafety, he returns to his female and her brood in tri- 
umph, clapping his wings, fcreaming, and (hewing all the marks 
of confcious fuperiority. It is probable, however, thefe arts fuc- 
ceed in raifing his importance among the tribe where they are 
difplayed ; and, it is probable, there is not a more refpe6table ani- 
rnal on earth to a goofe than a gander. 

A young goofe is generally reckoned very good eating ; yet 
the feathers of this bird ftill farther increafe its value. I feel my 
obligations to this animal every word I write ; for, however de- 
ficient a man's head may be, his pen is nimble enough upon every 
occaiion; it is happy indeed for us, that it requires no great ef- 
fort to put it in motion. But the feathers of this bird are ftill as 
valuable in another capacity, as they make the fofteft and the 
warmeft beds to deep on. 

Of goofe-feathers moft of our beds in Europe are compofedj 
in the countries bordering on the Levant, and in all Afia, the ufe 
of them is utterly unknown. They there ufe matraffes, fluffed 
with wool, or camel's hair or cotton; and the warmth of their 
climate may perhaps make them difpenfe with cufhions of a 
fofter kind. But how it happened that the ancients had not the 
ufe of feather-beds, is to me furprifmg : Pliny tells us, indeed, 
that they made bolfters of feathers to lay their heads on ; and 
this ferves as a proof that they turned feathers to no other ufes. 

As feathers are a very valuable commodity, great numbers 
of geefe are kept tame in the fens of Lincolnfhire, which are 
plucked once or twice a year. Thefe make a confiderable arti- 
cle of commerce. The feathers of Somerfetmire are moft in 
efteem ; thofe of Ireland are reckoned the worft. Hudfon's 
Bay alfo furniflies very fine feathers, fuppofed to be of the goofe 


kind. The down of the fwan is brought from Dantzic. The 
fame place alfo fends us great quantities of the feathers of the 
cock and hen ; but Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, furnifh. 
the bt-ft feathers of all : and in this number we may reckon the 
eider-down, of which we fhall take notice in its place. The beft 
inediod of curing feathers, is to lay them in a room in an open 
expofure to the fun, and, when dried, to put them into bags, and 
beat them well with poles to get the duft off. But, after all, 
nothing will prevent, for a time, the heavy fmell which arifes 
from the putrefaction of the oil contained in every feather ; no 
expofure will draw this off, how long foever it be continued; 
they muft be lain upon, which is the only remedy : and, for 
this reafon, old feathers are much more valuable than new. 


Of the Duck and Its Varieties. 

fTpHE tame duck is the moft eafily reared of all our do- 
JL meflic animals. The very inftincls of the young ones 
direft them to their favourite element ; and though they are con- 
dueled by a hen, yet they defpife the admonitions of their leader. 

This ferves as an inconteftible proof that all birds have their 
manners rather from nature than education. A falcon purfues 
the partridge, not becaufe it is taught by the old one, but becaufe 
its appetites make their importunate call for animal food ; the 
cuckoo follows a very different trade, from that which its nurfe 
endeavoured to teach it; and, if we may credit Pliny, in time 
deftroys its inftruclor: animals of the duck kind alfo follow 
their appetites, not their tutor, and come to all their various 
perfections without any guide. All the arts poffefled by man, 
are the refult of accumulated experience; all the arts of inferior 
animals are felf-taught, and fcarce one acquired by imitation. 

It rs ufual with the good women to lay duck-eggs under a 
hen, becaufe (he hatches them better than the original parent 
VOL. III. N n 


would have done. The duck feems to be an heedlefs, inattentive 
mother; fhe frequently leaves her eggs till they fpoil, and even 
feems to forget that fhe is entrufted with the charge : fhe is 
equally regardlefs of them when excluded; fhe leads them to 
the pond, and thinks fhe has fufficiently provided for her ofF- 
fpring when fhe has fliewn them the water. Whatever advan- 
tages may be procured by coming near the houfe, or attending 
in the yard, fhe declines them all ; "and often lets the vermin, 
who hunt the waters, deftroy them, rather than bring them to 
take fhelter nearer home. The hen is a nurfe of a very oppo- 
fite character ; fhe broods with the utmoft affiduity, and gene- 
rally brings forth a young one from every egg committed to 
her charge; fhe does not lead her younglings to the water 
indeed, but fhe watchfully guards them, when there, by {landing 
at the brink. Should the rat, or the weazle, attempt to feize 
them, the hen can give them protection ; fhe leads them to the 
houfe, when tired with paddling, and rears up the fuppofitious 
brood, without ever fufpe&ing that they belong to another. 

The wild duck differs, in many refpecls, from the tame; and 
in them there is flill greater variety than among the domeftic 
kinds. Of the tame duck there are not lefs than ten different 
forts; and of the wild, Briflbn reckons above twenty. The 
mofr. obvious diftinction between wild and tame ducks is in the 
colour of their feet ; thofe of the tame duck being black, thofe 
of the wild duck yellow. The difference between wild ducks 
among each other, arifes as well from their fize as the nature of 
the place they feed in. Sea-ducks, which feed in the falt-water, 
and dive much, have a broad bill, bending upwards, a large hind 
toe, and a long blunt tail. Pond-ducks, which feed inplafhes, 
have a ftraight and narrow bill, a fmall ,hind toe, and a fharp 
pointed train. The former are called by our decoy-men, foreign 
ducks; the latter are fuppofed to be natives of England. It 
would be tedious to enter into the minute varieties of fuch a 
number of birds ; all agreeing in the fame general figure, the 
fame habits and mode of living, and differing in little more than 
their fize, and the colours of their plumage. In this tribe, we 
may rank, as natives of our own European dominions, the euler 

WAT E R-F O WL. 283 

duck, which is double the fize of a common duck, with a black 
bill ; the velvet duck, not fo large, and with a yellow bill ; the 
fcotter, with a knob it the bafe of a yellow bill ; the tufted duck, 
adorned with a thick creft; the fcaup duck, lefs than the com- 
mon duck, with the bill of a greyifh blue colour; the golden 
eye, with a large white fpot at the corners of the mouth, refern- 
bling an eye ; the flieldrake, with the bill of a bright red, and 
fwelling into a knob; the mallard, which is the ftock from 
whence our tame breed has probably been produced ; the pintail, 
with the two middle feathers of the tail three inches longer than 
the reft: the pochard, with the head and neck of a bright bay : 
the widgeon, with a lead-coloured bill, and the plumage of the 
back marked with narrow black and white undulated lines, but 
beft known by its whittling found : laftly, the teal, which is the 
fmalleft of this kind, with the bill black, the head and upper part 
of the neck of a bright bay. Thefe are the moit common birds 
of the duck kind among ourfelves; but who can defcribe the 
amazing variety of this tribe, if he extends his view to the dif- 
ferent quarters of the world ? The moft noted of the foreign 
tribe are, the Mufcovy duck, or, more properly fpeaking, the 
mufk duck, fo called from a fuppofed muflcy fmell, with a naked 
fkin round the eyes, and which is a native of Africa. The Bra- 
filian duck, which is of the fize of a goofe, all over black except 
the tips of the wings. The American wood-duck, with a va- 
riety of beautiful colours, and a plume of feathers that falls from 
the back of the head like a friar's cowl. Thefe, and twenty 
others, might be added, were increafing the number of names the 
way to enlarge the fphere of our comprehenfion. 

All thefe live in the manner of our domeftic ducks, keeping 
together in flocks in the winter, and flying in pairs in fummer, 
bringing up their young by the water-fide, and leading them to 
their food as foon as out of the fhell. Their nefts are ufually 
built among heath or rufhes, not far from the water ; and they 
lay twelve, fourteen, or more eggs, before they fit : yet this is 
not always their method; the dangers they continually encoun- 
ter from their ground fituation, fometimes obliges them to 
change their manner of building ; and their aukward nc-fls are 

284 A N . H I S T O R Y O F 

often feen exalted on the tops of trees. This muft be a very 
great labour to perform, as the duck's bill is but ill-formed for 
building a neft, and giving the materials of which it is compofed 
a fufficient {lability to ftand the weather. The neft, whether 
high or low, is generally compofed of fmgular materials. The 
longeft grafs, mixed with heath, and lined within with the bird's 
own feathers, ufually go to the compofition: however, in pro- 
portion as the climate is colder, the neft is more artificially made, 
and more warmly lined. In the Arctic regions, nothing can ex- 
ceed the great care all of this kind take to protect their eggs from 
the intenfenefs of the weather. While the gull and the penguin 
kind feem to difregard the fevereft cold, the duck, in thofe re- 
gions, forms itfelf a hole to lay in, fhelters the approach, lines it 
with a layer of long grafs and clay, within that another of mofs, 
and laftly, a warm coat of feathers or down. The eider duck is 
particularly remarkable for the warmth of its neft. This bird, 
which, as was faid, is above twice as large as the corrirnon duck, 
and refides in the colder climates, lays from fix to eight eggs, 
making her neft among the rocks or the plants along the fea- 
ihore. The external materials of the neft are fuch as are in 
common with the reft of the kind ; but the infide lining on 
which the eggs are immediately depofited, is at once the foft- 
eft, warmeft, and the lighteft fubftance with which we are ac- 
quainted. This is no other than the iniide down which covers 
the breaft of the bird in the breeding-feafon. This the female 
plucks off with her bill, and furnifhes the infide of her neft with 
a tapeftry more valuable than the moft fkilful artifts can pro- 
duce. The natives watch the place where fhe begins to build, 
and fuffering her to lay, take away both the eggs and the neft. 
The duck, hov/ever, not difcouraged by the firft difappointment, 
builds and lays in the fame place a fecond time ; and this they 
in the fame manner take away: the third time fhe builds, but 
the drake muft fupply the down from his breaft to line the neft 
with: and, if this be robbed, they both forfake the place, and 
breed there no more. This down the natives take care to fepa- 
rate from the dirt and mofs with which it is mixed; and though 
no people ft and in more need of a warm covering than them- 
felves, yet their neceffities compel them to fell it to the more in- 


clolent and luxurious inhabitants of the fouth for brandy and 

As they pofTefs the faculties of flying and fwi mining, fo they 
are in general birds of paflage, and it is moft probable perform 
their journies acrofs the ocean as well on the water as in the air. 
Thofe that migrate to this country, on the approach of winter, 
are feldom found fo well tailed or fo fat as the fowls that conti- 
nue with us the year round : their flefh is often lean, and ftill 
oftner fifhy ; which flavour it has probably contracted in the 
journey, as their food in the lakes of Lapland, from whence they 
defcend, is generally of the infecl: kind. 

As foon as they arrive among us, they are generally ieen fly- 
ing in flocks to make a furvey of thofe lakes where they intend 
to take up their refidence for the winter. In the choice of thefe 
they have two objects in view; to be near their food, and yet re- 
mote from interruption. Their chief aim is to chufe fome lake 
in the neighbourhood of a marfh, where there is at the fame time 
a cover of woods, and where infects are found in greateft abun- 
dance. Lakes, therefore, with a marfh on one fide, and a wood 
on the other, are feldom without vaft quantities of wild fowl ; 
and where a couple are feen at any time, that is a fufficient in- 
ducement to bring hundreds of others. The ducks flying in the 
air are often lured down from their heights by the loud voice of 
the mallard from below. Nature feems to have furnifhed this 
bird with very particular faculties for ca lli|r The windpipe, 
where it begins to enter the lungs, opens inJBKnd of bony ca- 
vity, where the found is refle6ted as in a mimqPpnftrurnent, and 
is heard a great way off. To this call all the ftragglers refort; 
and in a week or a fortnight's time, a lake that before was quite 
naked, is black with water fowl, that have left their Lapland 
retreats to keep company with our ducks, who never ftirred from 

They generally chufe that part of the lake where they are in- 
acceflible to the approach of the fowler, in which they all appear 
huddled together, extremely bufy and very loud. What it is can 
employ them all the day, is not eafy to guefs. There is no food 


tor them at the place where they fit and cabal thus, as they choofe 
the middle of the lake ; and as for courtmip, the feafon for that 
is not yet come ; fo that it is wonderful what can fo bufily keep 
them occupied. Not one of them feems a moment at reft. Now 
purfuing one another, now fcreaming, then all up at once, then 
down again ; the whole feems one ilrange fcene of bufHe with 
nothing to do. 

They frequently go off in a more private manner by night, 
to feed in the adjacent meadows and ditches, which they dare 
not approach by day. In thefe nocturnal adventures, they are 
often taken; for though a timorous bird, yet they are eafily 
deceived, and every fpringe feems to fucceed in taking them. 
But the greateft quantities are taken in decoys ; which, though 
well known near London, are yet untried in the remoter parts 
of the country. The manner of making and managing a de- 
coy is as follows. 

A place is to be chofen for this purpofe, far remote from the 
common highway and all noife of people. A decoy is beft where 
there is a large pond furrounded by a wood, and beyond that a 
marftiy and uncultivated country. When the place is chofen, 
the pool, if poflible, is to be planted round with willows, un- 
lefs a wood anfwers the purpofe of fhading it on every fide. 
On the fouth and north fide of this pool are two, three, or four 
ditches or channels, made broad towards the pool, and growing 
narrower till they end in a point. Thefe channels are to be 
covered over with nets, fupported by hooped fticks, bending from 
one fide to the other ; fo that they form a vault or arch growing 
narrower and narrower to the point, where it is terminated by 
a tunnel-net, like that in which fifh are caught in weirs. Along 
the banks of thefe channels fo netted over, which are called pipes, 
many hedges are made of reeds Planting to the edge of the chan- 
nel, the acute angles to the fide next the pool. The whole ap- 
paratus alfo is to be hidden from the pool, by a hedge of reeds 
along the margin, behind which the fowler manages his opera- 
tions. The place being fitted in this manner, the fowler is to 
provide himfelf with a number of wild ducksimade tame, which 


are called decoys. Thefe are always to be fed at the mouth or 
entrance of the pipe, and to be accuftomed to come at a whittle. 

As foon as the evening is fet in, the decoy rifis^ as they term 
it, and the wild fowl feed during the night. If the evening be 
ftill, the noife of their wings, during their flight, is heard at a very 
great ciftance, and produces no unpleafmg fenfation. The 
fowler, when he finds a fit opportunity, and fees his decoy co- 
vered with fowl, walks about the pool, and obferves into what 
pipe the birds gathered in the pool may be enticed or driven. 
Then caftipg hemp-feed, or fome fuch feed as will float on the 
furface of the water, at the entrance and up along the pipe, he 
whittles to his decoy-ducks, who inftantly obey the fummons, 
and come to the entrance of the pipe, in hopes of being fed as 
ufual. Thither alfo they are followed by a whole flock of wild 
ones, who little fufpecl: the danger preparing againft them. Their 
fenfe of fmelling, however, is very exquifite; and they would 
foon difcover their enemy, but that the fowler always keeps a 
piece of turf burning at his riofe, againtt which he breathes ; and 
tais prevents the effluvia of his perfon from reaching their exqui- 
fite fenfes. The wild ducks, therefore, purfuing the decoy-ducks, 
are led into the broad mouth of the channel or pipe, nor have the 
leaft fufpicion of the man who keeps hidden behind one of the 
hedges. When they have got up the pipe, however, finding it 
grow more and more narrow, they begin to fufpecl: danger, and 
would return back ; but they are now prevented by the man, 
who fhews himfelf at the broad end below. Thither, therefore, 
they dare not return; and rife they may not, as they are kept by 
the net above from afcending. The only way left them, there- 
fore, is the narrow funnelled net at the bottom; into this they 
fly, and there they are taken. 

It often happens, however, that the wild fowl are in fuch a ftate 
of fleepinefs or dozing, that they will not follow the decoy-ducks. 
Ufe is then generally made of a dog who is taught his leflbn. He 
pafles backward and forward between the reed-hedges, in which 
there are little holes, both for the decoy-man to fee, and v for the 
little dog to pafs through. This attracts the eye of the wild 
fowl; who, prompted by curiofity, advance towards this little 


animal, while he all the time keeps playing among the reeds, 
nearer and nearer the funnel, till they follow him too far to recede. 
Sometimes the dog will riot attract their attention till a red 
handkerchief, or fomething very fmgular, be put about him. 
The decoy-ducks never enter the funnel-net with the reft, being 
taught to dive under water as foon as the reft are driven in. 

The general feafon for catching fowl in decoys, is from the 
latter end of October till February. The taking them earlier is 
prohibited by an a6t of George the fecond, which impofes a pe- 
nalty of five (hillings for every bird deftroyed at any other feafon. 

The Lincolnfhire decoys are commonly let at a certain an- 
nual rent, from five pounds to twenty pounds a year; and fome 
even amount to thirty. Thefe principally contribute to fupply 
the markets of London with wild-fowl. The number of ducks 
wigeon, and teal, that are fent thither, is amazing. Above thirty 
thoufand have been fent up in one feafon from ten decoys, in the 
neighbourhood of Wainfleet. This quantity makes them fo 
cheap on the fpot, that it is aflerted, the feveral decoy-men would 
be glad to contract for years, to deliver their ducks at the next 
town for ten-pence the couple. 

To this manner of taking wild fowl in England, I will fub- 
join another ftill more extraordinary, frequently practifed in 
China. Whenever the fowler fees a number of ducks fettled 
in any particular plafh of water, he fends off two or three gourds 
to float among them. Thefe gourds refemble our pompions; 
but being made hollow, they fwim on the furface of the water; 
and on one pool there may fometimes be feen twenty or thirty of 
thefe gourds floating together. The fowl at firft are a little fhy 
of coming near them; but by degrees they come nearer; and 
as all birds at laft grow familiar with a fcare-crow, the ducks 
gather about thefe, and amufe themfelves by whetting their bills 
a^ainft them. When the birds are as familiar with the gourds 
as the fowler could wifh, he then prepares to deceive them in 
good earneft. He hollows out one of thefe gourds large enough 
to put his head in; and, making holes to breathe and fee through, 
he claps it on his head. Thus accoutred, he wades flowly into 


the water, keeping his body under, and nothing but his head in 
the gourd above the furface; and in that manner moves imper- 
ceptibly towards the fowls, who fufpecl: no danger. At laft, 
however, he fairly gets in among them; while they, having 
been long ufed to fee gourds, take not the leaft fright while the 
enemy is in the very midft of them; and an infidious enemy he 
is ; for ever as he approaches a fowl, he feizes it by the legs, 
and draws it in a jerk under water. There he fattens it under 
his girdle, and goes to the next, till he has thus loaded himfelf 
with as many as he can carry away. When he has got his 
quantity, without ever attempting to difturb the reft of the 
fowls on the pool, he ilowly moves off again; and in this manner 
pays the flock three or four vifits in a day. Of all the various 
artifices for catching fowl, this feems likely to be attended with 
the greateft fuccefs, as it is the moft pra&ifed in China. 



Of the King-Fijher. 

WILL conclude this hiftory of birds with one that feems 
to unite in itfelf fomewhat of every clafs preceding. It 
feems at once pofleffed of appetites for prey like the rapacious 
kinds, with an attachment to water like the birds of that element. 
It exhibits in its form the beautiful plumage of the peacock, the 
fhadings of the humming-bird, the bill of the crane, and the fhort 
legs of the fwallow. The bird I mean is the king-rimer, of 
which many extraordinary falfehoods have been propagated ; and 
yet of which many extraordinary things remain to be faid that 
are actually true. 

The king-fifher is not much larger than a fwallow; its fhape 
is clumfy ; the legs difproportionably fmall, and the bill difpro- 
portionably long ; it is two inches from the bafe to the tip; the 
upper chap black and the lower yellow: but the colours of this 
bird atone for its inelegant form ; the crown of the head and the 

VOL. III. O o 


coverts of the wings are of a deep blaekifh green, fpotted with 
bright azure; the back and tail are of the moft refplendent 
azure; the whole under-fide of the body is orange-coloured; a 
broad mark of the fame pafies from the bill beyond the eyes ; 
beyond that is a large white foot : the tail is fhort, and confifts 
of twelve feathers, of a rich deep blue ; the feet are of a reddifh 
yellow, and the three joints of the outmoft toe adhere to the mid- 
dle toe, while the inner toe adheres only by one. 

From the diminutive fize, the {lender fhort legs, and the 
beautiful colours of this bird, no perfon would be led to fuppofc 
it one of the moft rapacious little animals that fkims the deep. 
Yet it is forever on the wing, and feeds on fifh, which it takes 
in furprifing quantities, when we confider its fize and figure. 
It chiefly frequents the banks of rivers, and takes its prey after 
the manner of the ofprey, balancing itfelf at a certain diftance 
above the water for a confiderable fpace, then darting into the 
deep, and feizing the fifti with inevitable certainty. While it 
remains fufpended in the air, in a bright d^y, the plumage exhi- 
bits a beautiful variety of the moft dazzling and brilliant colours. 
It might have been this extraordinary beauty that has given 
rife to fable ; for wherever there is any thing uncommon, fancy 
is always willing to increafe the wonder. 

Of this bird it has been faid that fhe built her neft on the 
water, and thus in a few days hatched and produced her young. 
But, to be uninterrupted in this talk, fhe was faid to be pofTefled 
of a charm to allay the fury of the waves ; and during this period 
the mariner might fail with the greateft fecurity. The ancient 
poets are full of thefe fables ; their hiftorians are not exempt 
from them. Cicero has written a long poem in praife of the 
halcyon, of which there remains but two lines. Even the emperor 
Gordian has written a poem on this fubje<5u, of which we have 
nothing . remaining. Thefe fables have been adopted even by 
one of the earlieft fathers of the church. " Behold," fays St. 
Ambrofe, " the little bird which in the midft of the winter lays 
her eggs on the fand by the fhore. From that moment the winds 
are hufhed ; the fea becomes fmooth; and the calm continues for 
fourteen days. This is the time fhe requires; feven days to 


hatch, and fevcn days to fofter her young. Their Creator has 
taught thefe little animals to make their neft in the midft of the 
flormy feafon, only to manifeft his kindnefs by granting them 
a lafting calm. The feamen are not ignorant of this blefling ; 
they call this interval of fair weather their halcyon days; and 
they are particularly careful to feize the opportunity, as then 
they need fear no interruption." This, and an hundred other in- 
fiances might be given of the credulity of mankind with refpecr. 
to this bird : they entered into fpeculations concerning the man- 
ner of her calming the deep, the formation of her nsft, and her 
peculiar fagacity : at prefent we do not fpeculate, becaufe we 
know, with refpecl: to our king-fifher, that moft of the fa<5ts are 
falfe. It may be alleged, indeed, with fome (hew of reafon, that 
the halcyon of the ancients was a different bird from our king- 
fifher; it may be urged, that many birds, efpecially on the In- 
dian ocean, build a floating neft upon the fea; but ftill the hiftory 
of the ancient halcyon is clogged with endlefs fable; and it is 
but an indifferent method to vindicate falfehopd by mewing that 
a part of the ftory is true. 

The. king-fifher, with which we are acquainted at prefent, has 
none of thofe powers of allaying the ftorm, or building upon 
the waves ; it is contented to make its neft on the banks of 
rivers, in fuch fituations as not to be affected by the rifmg of 
the frream. When it has found a place for its purpofe, it hol- 
lows out with its bill a hole about a yard deep; or if it finds 
.the deferted hole of a rat, or one caufed by the root of a tree de- 
caying, it takes quiet poffeflion. This hole it enlarges at the 
bottom to a good fize ; and, lining it with the down of the wil- 
low, lays its egg there without any farther preparation. 

Its neft, or rather hole, is very different from that, defcribed 
by the ancients, by whom it is faid to be made in the fhape of 
a long-necked gourd, of the bones of the fea-needle. The bones, 
indeed, are found there in great quantities, as well as the fcales 
of fiflies ; but thefe are the remains of the bird's food, and by no 
means brought there for the purpofes of warmth or convenience. 
The king-fifher, as Bellonius fays, feeds uponfim, but is in- 
capable of digefting the bones and fcales, which he throws up 


again, as eagles and owls are feen to do a part of their prey. 
Thefe fill the bird's neft of courfe; and, although they feem as 
if defignedly placed there, are only a kind of nuifance. 

In thefe holes, which, from the remains of fifli brought there, 
are very foetid, the king-rimer is often found with from five 
eggs to nine. There the female continues to hatch even though 
difturbed ; and though the neft be robbed, fhe will again return 
and lay there. " I have had one of thofe females brought me," 
fays Reaumur, " which was taken from her neft about three 
leagues from my houfe. After admiring the beauty of her co- 
lours, I let her fly again, when the fond creature was inftantly 
feen to return back to the neft where fhe had juft before been 
made a captive. There joining the male, fhe again began to 
lay, though it was for the third time, and though the feafon was 
very far advanced. At each time fhe had feven eggs. The older 
the neft is, the greater quantity of fifh-bones and fcales does it 
contain : thefe are difpofed without any order ; and fometimes 
take up a good deal of room." 

The female begins to lay early in the feafon; and excludes 
her firft brood about the beginning of April. The male, whofe 
fidelity exceeds even that of the turtle, brings her large provifi- 
ons of fifh while fhe is thus employed ; and fhe, contrary to moft 
other birds, is found plump and fat at that feafon. The male, 
that ufed to twitter before this, now enters the neft as quietly 
and as privately as poffible. The young ones are hatched at 
the expiration of twenty days : but are feen to differ as well in 
their fize as in their beauty. 

As the ancients have had their fables concerning this bird, fo 
have the modern vulgar. It is an opinion generally received 
among them, that the flefh of the king-fifher will not corrupt, 
and that it will evenbanifh all vermin. This has no better foun- 
dation than that which is faid of its always pointing, when hung 
up dead, with its breaft to the north. The only truth which 
can be affirmed of this bird when killed, is, that its flefh is ut- 
terly unfit to be eaten; while its beautiful plumage preferves its 
luftre longer than that of any other bird we know. 


Having thus given a fhort hiftory of birds, I own I cannot 
take leave of this moft beautiful part of the creation without rs- 
lu&ance. Thefe fplendid inhabitants of air polTefs all thcfe qua- 
lities that can foothe the heart and chear the fancy; the brighteft 
colours, the roundeft forms, the moil active manners, and the 
fweeteft mufic. In fending the imagination in puriuit of thefe, 
in following them to the chirruping grove, the fcreaming preci- 
pice, or the glafiy deep, the mind naturally loft the fenfe of its 
own fituation, and, attentive to their little fports, almoft forgot 
the TASK of defcribing them. Innocentlv to amufe the ima- 
gination in this dream of life, is wifdom; and nothing is ufelefs, 
that, by furnifhing mental employment, keeps us for a while in 
oblivion of thofe ftronger appetites that lead to evil. But every 
rank and ftate of mankind may find fomething to imitate in thofe 
delightful fongfters, and we may not only employ our time, but 
mend our lives by the contemplation. From their courage in 
defence of their young, and their affiduity in incubation, the 
coward may learn to be brave, and the rafh to be patient. The 
inviolable attachment of fome to their companions may give lef- 
fons of fidelity, and the connubial tendernefs of others, be a mo- 
nitor to the incontinent. Even thofe that are tyrants by nature 
never fpread capricious deftru&ion ; and, unlike man, never in- 
fiicl: a pain but when urged by neceility. 




I S 



R Y 










Of Fifnes in General. 

TH E ocean is the great receptacle of fifties. It has been 
thought, by fome, that all fifh are naturally of that fait 
element; and that they have mounted up into frefh water, by 
fome accidental migration. A fewftill fwim up rivers to depofic 
their (pawn; but of the great body of fifties, of which the fize is 
enormous and the ftioals are endlefs, thofe all keep to the fea, and 
would quickly expire in frefh water. In that extenfive and 
undifcovered abode, millions refide, whofe manners are a fecret 
to us, and whofe very form is unknown. The curiofity of man- 
kind, indeed, has drawn fome from their depth, and his wants 
many more: with the figure of thefe at leaft he is acquainted; 
but for their purfuits, migrations, focieties, antipathies, pleafures > 
times of geftation, and manner of bringing forth, thefe are all 
hidden in the turbulent element that protects them. 

The number of fifh to which we have given names, and of 
the figure, at leaft, of which v/e know fomething, according to 
Linnaeus, are above four hundred. Thus to appearance indeed 
the hiftory of fifh is tolerably copious ; but when we come to 
examine, it will be found that of the greateft part of thefe we 
know very little. Thofe qualities, fingularities, or advantages, 
that render animals worth naming, ftill remain to be difcovered. 


The hiftory of fifties, therefore, has little in it entertaining : for 
our philofophers hitherto, inftead of ftudying their nature, have 
been employed in increafing their catalogues ; and the reader, 
inftead of obfcrvations or facl:s, is prefented with a long lift of 
names, that difguft him with their barren fuperfluity. It muii: 
difpleafe him to fee the language of a fcience increafing, while 
the fcience itfelf has nothing to repay the increqfing tax laid 
upon his memory. 

Moft fifti offer us the fame external form ; fharp at either 
end, and fwelling in the middle ; by which they are enabled to 
traverfe the fluid which they inhabit, with greater celerity and 
eafe. That peculiar fhape which nature has granted to moft 
fifties, we endeavour to imitate in fuch vefTels as are defigned 
to fail with the greateft fwiftnefs : however, the progrefs of a 
machine moved forward in the water by human contrivance, is 
nothing to the rapidity of an animal deftined by nature to refide 
there. Any of the large fifli overtake a fhip in full fail with 
great eafe, play round it without effort, and outftrip it at plea- 
lure. Every part of the body feems exerted in this difpatch ; 
the fins, the tail, and the motion of the whole back-bone, afliit 
progrefTion ; and it is to that flexibility of body at which art 
cannot arrive, that fifties owe their great velocity. 

The chief inftruments in a fifties motion, are the fins ; which, 
in fome fifli, are much more numerous than in others. A fifli 
completely fitted for failing, is furniftied with not lefs than two 
pair ; alfo three fingle fins, two above and one below. Thus 
equipped, it migrates with the utmoft rapidity, and takes voyages 
of a thoufand leagues in a feafon. But it does not always hap- 
pen, that fuch fifti as have the greateft number of fins- have the 
fwifteft motion ; the fhark is thought to be one of the fwifteft 
fwimmers, yet it wants the ventral or belly fins ; the haddock 
does not move fo fwift, yet it is completely fitted for motion. 

But the fins ferve not only to aflift the animal in progreflion, 
but in rifing or finking, in turning, or even leaping out of the 
water. To anfwer thefe purpofes, the pectoral fins ferve, like 
oars, topufli the animal forward; they are placed at forae little 


diftance behind the opening of the gills ; they are generally large 
and ftrong, and anfwer the fame purpofes to the fifh in the water, 
as wings do to a bird in the air. With the help of thefe, and by 
their continued motion, the flying- fifli is fometimes feen to rife 
out of the water, and to fly above an hundred yards ; till, fatigued 
with its exertions, it is obliged to fink down again. Thefe alfo 
iervc to balance the fifh's head, when it is too large for the body, 
iid keep it from tumbling prone to the bottom, as is feen in 
large headed fifties, when the pectoral fins are cutoff. Next 
thefe are feen the ventral fins, placed toward the lower part of 
the body, under the belly: thefe are always feen to lie flat on the 
water, in whatever fituation the fifh may be ; and they ferve ra- 
ther to raife or deprefs the fifh in its element, than to affift pro- 
greflive motion. The dorfal fin is fituated along the ridge of 
the back ; and ferves to keep it in equilibrio, as alfo toaffift its 
progreflive motion. In many fifties this is wanting ; but in all 
flat fiflies it is very large, as the pectoral fins are proportionably 
fmall. The anal fin occupies that part of the fifh which lies be- 
tween the anus and the tail; and this ferves to keep the fifh in 
its upright or vertical fituation. Laftly, the tail, which in fome 
fifties is flat, and upright in others, feems the grand inftrument 
of motion: the fins are all fubfervient to it, and give direc- 
tion to its great impetus, by which the fifti feerns to dart for- 
ward with fo much velocity. To explain all this by experiment ; 
a carp is taken, and put into a large veftel. The fifti, in a (late 
of repofe, fpreads all its fins, and feems to reft upon its pectoral 
and ventral fins near the bottom : if the fifh folds up, for it has 
the power of folding, either of its pe6toral fins, it inclines to the 
lame fide ; folding the right pe&oral fin, the fifh inclines to the 
right fide ; folding the left fin, it inclines to that fide in turn. 
When the fifh defires to have a retrograde motion, ftriking with 
the pectoral fins, in a contrary direction, effectually produces it. 
If the fifh defires to turn, a blow from the tail fends it about; but 
if the tail ftrikes both ways, then the motion is progreffive. In 
purfuance of thefe obfervations, if the dorfal and ventral fins be 
cut off, the fifti reels to the right and left, and endeavours to fup- 
ply its lots by keeping the reft of its fins inconftarit employment. 
If the right pectoral fin be cut off, the fifh leans to that fide; if 


the ventral fin on the fame fide be cut away, then it lofes its equi- 
librium entirely. When the tail is cut off, the fifh lofes all mo- 
tion, and gives itfelf up to where the water impels it. 

From hence it appears, that each of thefe inftruments has a 
peculiar ufe aiTigned it; but, at the fame time, that they all 
confpire to ailift each other's motions. Some fifh are pofTefled 
of all, whofe motions are yet not the fwifteft; others have but 
a part, and yet dart in the water with great rapidity. The 
number, the fize, and the fituation of the fins, therefore, feem 
rather calculated to correfpond with the animal's figure, thai} 
folely to anfwer the purpofes of promoting its fpeed. Where 
the head is large and heavy, there the pectoral fins are large, and 
placed forward, to keep it from overfetting. Where the head is 
fmall, or produced out into a long beak, and therefore not too 
heavy for the tail, the pectoral fins are fmall, and the ventral 
fins totally wanting. 

As moft animals that live upon land are furnifhed with a 
covering to keep ofr the injuries of the weather, fo all that live 
in the water are covered with a flimy, glutinous matter, that, 
like a fheath, defends their bodies from the immediate contact of 
the furrounding fluid. This fubftance may be confidered as a 
fecretion from the pores of the animal's body ; and ferving, not 
only to defend, but to affift the fifti's eafy progrefs through the 
water. Beneath this, in many kinds, is found a ftrong covering 
of fcales, that, like a coat of mail, defend it ftill more powerfully ; 
and under that, before we come to the mufcular parts of the bo- 
dy, an oily fubftance, which fupplies the requifite warmth and 

The fifh, thus protected and fitted for motion in its natural 
element., feerns as well furnifned with the means of happinefs 
as quadrupeds or birds : but if we come to examine its faculties 
more nearly, we (hall find it very much their inferior. The 
fenfe of touching, which beafcs and birds have in a fmall degree, 
the fifli, covered up in its own coat of mail, can have but little 
acquaintance with. 

Vox. III. P p 


The fenfe of fmelling, which in beafts is fo exquifite, and 
among birds is not wholly unknown, feems given to fifties in a 
very moderate proportion. It is true, that all fifties have one 
or more ncftrils: and even thofe that have not the holes percep- 
tible without, yet have the proper formation of the bones for 
fmelling within. But as air is the only medium we know for 
the diftribution of odours, it cannot be fuppofed that thefe ani- 
mals, refiding in water, can be poiTefled of any pov/er of being 
affected by them. If they have any perception of fmells, it muft 
be in the fame manner as we diftinguifti by our tafte; and, it is 
probable, the olfactory membrane in fifli ferves them inftead of 
a diftinguifhing palate: by this they judge of fubftances, that, 
firft tincturing the water with their vapours, are thus fent to the 
noftrils of the fifh, and no doubt produce fome kind of fenfation. 
This moft probably muft be the ufe of that organ in thofe. ani- 
mals ; as otherwife there would be the inftruments of a fenfe 
provided for them, without any power in them of enjoyment. 

As to tailing, they feem to make very little diftinction ; the 
palate of moft fim is hard and bony, and confequently incapable 
of the powers of relifhing different fubftances. This fenfe among 
quadrupeds, who poftefs it in fome degree, arifes from the foft 
pliancy of the organ, and the delicacy of the ftdn which covers 
the inftruments of tailing; it may be confidered, in them, as a 
more perfect and delicate kind of feeling: in the 'bony palate of 
fifh, therefore, all powers of diftinguifhing are utterly taken 
away ; and we have accordingly often feen thefe voracious ani- ' 
mals fwallow the fifherman's plummet inftead of the bait. 

Hearing in fifties is found ftill more imperfect, if it be found 
at all. Certain it is, that anatomifts have not been able to dif- 
cover, except in the whale kind, the fmalleft traces of an organ, 
either within or without the head of fifties. It is true that in the 
centre of the brain of fome fifties are found now and then fome 
little bones, the number and fituation of which are entirely acci- 
dental. Thefe bones, mr. Klein has fuppofed toconftitute the 
oro~an of hearing j but if we confider their entire diilimilitude to 
the bones 'that ferve for hearing in other animals, we ftiall be of 
another opinion. The greateft number of fifties are deprived 


of thefe bones entirely : fome fifli have them in fmall numbers, 
and others in abundance ; yet neither teftify an excellence or de- 
feel: in hearing. Indeed, of what advantage would this fenfe be 
to animals that are incapable of making themfelves heard ? They 
have no voice to communicate with each other, and confequently 
have no need of an organ for hearing. Mr. Gouan, who kept 
fome gold fifh in a vafe, informs us, that, whatever noife he 
made, he could neither difturb nor terrify them : he hollowed as 
loud as he could, putting a piece of paper between his mouth and 
the water, to prevent the vibrations from affecting the furface, and 
the fifties ftill feemed infenfible : but when the paper was remov- 
ed, and the found had its full play upon the water, the fifties 
feemed inftantly to feel the change, and fhrunk to the bottom. 
From this we may learn, that fifhes are as deaf as they are mute; 
and that when they feem to hear the call of a whiftle or a bell at 
the edge of a pond, it is rather the vibrations of the found that 
affect the water, by which they are excited, than any founds 
that they hear. 

Seeing feems to be the fenfe fifties are poffeffed of in the 
greatefl degree ; and yet even this feems obfcure, if we compare 
it to that of other animals. The eye, in almoft all fifh, is co- 
vered with the fame tranfparent fkin that covers the reft of the 
head; and which probably ferves to defend it in the water, as 
they are without eye-lids. The globe is more depreffed anteri- 
orly, and is furnifhed behind with a mufcle, which ferves to 
lengthen or flatten it according to the neceffities of the animal. 
The cryftaline humour, which in quadrupeds is flat and of the 
fhape of a button-mold, in fifties is as round as a pea; or fome- 
times oblong, like an egg. From all this it appears, that fifh are 
extremely near-fighted ; and that, even in the water, they can 
fee objects at a very fmall diftance. This diftance might be 
very eafily afcertained, by comparing the refraction of bodies in 
the water, with that formed by a lens that is fpherical. Thofe 
unfkilled in mathematical calculations, will have a general 
idea of this from the glaffes ufed by near-fighted people. Thofe 
whofe cryftaline humour is too convex, or, in other words, 
too round, are always very near-fighted; and obliged to ufc 


concave glafles, to correct the imperfeftions of nature. The 
cryftaline humour of fifli is fo round, that it is not in the power 
of any glafTes, much lefs of water, to correct their vifion. This 
cryflaline humour in fifties all muft have fecn ; bcinac that 
little hard pea-like fubftance which is found in their eyes after 
boiling. In the natural {rate it is tranfparent, and not much 
harder than a jelly. 

From all this, it appears hov/ far fiih fall behind terreflrial 
animals in their fenfations, and consequently in their enjoyments. 
Even their brain, which by fome is fuppofed to be of a fize with 
every animal's underftanding, {hows that fifh are inferior even to 
birds in this particular. It is divided into three parts, furrounded 
with a whitifh froth, and gives off nerves as well to the fenfe of 
fight as of fmelling. In fome fifh it is grey, in others white ; in 
fome it is flatted, in others round; but in all extremely fmall, 
compared to the bulk of the animal. 

Thus nature feems to have fitted thefe animals with appe- 
tites and powers of an inferior kind; and formed them for a fort 
of pailive exiftcnce in the obfcure and heavy element to which 
they are configned. To preferve their own exiftence, and to con- 
tinue it to their pofterity, fill up the whole circle of their purfuits 
and enjoyments ; to thefe they are impelled rather by neceffity 
than choice, and feein mechanically excited to every fruition. 
Their fenfes are incapable of making any diftin&ions ; but they 
drive forward in purfuit of whatever they can fwailow, conquer, 
or enjoy. 

A ceafelefs defire of food feems to give the ruling impulfe to 
all their motions. This appetite impels them to encounter every 
danger; and indeed their rapacity feems infatiable. Even when 
taken out of the water, and almoft expiring, they greedily fwai- 
low the very bait by which they were allured to deftrucl:ion. 

The maw is, in general, placed next the mouth; and though 
poffefled of no fenfible heat, is, however, endued with a furpriz- 
ing faculty of digeftion. Its digeftive power feems, in fome mea- 
fure, to increafe with the quantity of food it is fupplied with; a 
{ingle pike having been known to devour an hundred roaches in 


three days. Its faculties alfo are as extraordinary ; for it cTig-jfis 
not only fifli, but much harder fubllances : prawns, crabs, and 
Jebfters, fhells and all. Thefe the cod or the fturgeon will not 
only devour, but difiblve down, though their fliells are fo much 
harder than the fides of the ftornach which contains them. This 
amazing faculty in the cold maw of fi flies has juftly excited^ 
the curioftty of philofophers ; and has effectually overturned the 
fyftern of thofe, who fuppofed that the heat of the fbmach was 
alone a fufficient inftrument for digeftion. The truth feems to 
be, and fbmc experiments of the fkilful dr. Hunter feem to 
evince, that there is a power of animal aliimilation lodged in the 
ftomach of all creatures, which we can neither dffcribe nor de- 
fine, converting the fubftances they f wallow into a fluid fitted 
for their own peculiar fupport. This is done neither by tritu- 
ration, nor by warmth, nor by motion, nor by a difTolving fluid, 
nor by their united efforts ; but by fome principle in the fto- 
mach yet unknown, which a els in a different manner from all 
kinds of artificial maceration. The meat taken into the fromadi 
or maw is often fcen, though very near being digefced, ftill to 
retain its original form ; and ready for a total diflblution, while 
it appears to the eye as yet untouched by the force of the 
flomach. This animal power is lodged in the maw of fifhes, 
in a greater degree than in any other creatures; their digeftive 
powers are quick, and their appetites are ever craving. 

Yet, though fifli are thus hungry, and for ever prowling, no 
animals can fufFer the want of food for fo long a time. The 
gold and filver fifh we keep in vafes, feem never to want any 
nourifhment at all : whether it be that they feed on the water- 
infects, too minute for our obfervatkm, or that water alone is 
a fufficient fupply, is not evident; but they are often feen for 
months without apparent fuftenauce. Even the pike, the nioit 
voracious of fifties, will live in a pone, where there is none 
but himfelf ; and, what is more extraordinary, will be found 
to thrive there. 

Still, however, fifh are, of all other animal?;, the mofl vo- 
racious and infatiable. Whatever any of them is able to fwal- 
iow pofTelTed of life, feems to be confidered as the moft defir- 


able food. Some that have very fmall mouths feed upon worms 
and the fpawn of other fiih : others, whofe mouths are larger, 
feek larger prey; it matters not of what kind, whether of ano- 
ther or their own. Thofe with the largelt mouths purfue 
almoft every thing that has life; and often meet each other in 
fierce oppofition, when the fim with the largeft fwaliow comes 
off with the victory, and devours its antagoniir. 

Thus are they irritated by the continual defire of fatisfying 
their hunger ; and the life of a fim, from the fmalleft to the great- 
eft, is but one fcene of hoftility, violence and evafion. But the 
fmaller fry ftand no chance in the unequal combat; and their 
ufual way of efcaping, is by fwimming into thofe (hallows where 
the greater are unable or too heavy to purfue. There they be- 
come invaders in turn, and live upon the fpawn of larger fifh, 
which they find floating upon the furfaceof the water: yet there 
are dangers attending them in every place. Even in the {hal- 
lows, the mufcle, the oyfter, and the fcallop, lie in ambum at the 
bottom, with their fhells open, and whatever little fifh inadvert- 
ently approaches into contact, they at once clofe their fhells up- 
on him, and devour the imprifoned prey at their pleafure. 

Nor is the purfuit of fifties, like that of terreftrial animals, 
confined to a fmgle region, or to one effort: fhoals of one fpecies 
follow thofe of another, through vaft traces of ocean, from the 
vicinity of the pole even down to the equator. Thus the cod, 
from the banks of Newfoundland, purfues the whiting, which 
flies before it even to the fouthern fliores of Spain. The cacha- 
lot is faid, in. the fame manner, to purfue a fhoal of herrings, and 
to fwallow thoufands at a gulp. 

This may be one caufe of the annual migration of fifties from 
one part of the ocean to the other ; but there are other motives 
which come in aid of this alfo. Fifhes may be induced to change 
the place of their refidence, for one more fuited to their conftitu- 
tions, or more adapted to depofiting their fpawn. It is remark- 
able that no fifh are fond of very cold waters, and generally fre- 
quent thofe places where it is warmefr. Thus, in fummer, they 
are feen in great numbers in the fhallows near the fhore, where 


the fun has power to warm the water to the bottom ; on the con- 
trary, in winter, they are found towards the bottom in the deep 
fea, for the cold of the atmofphere is not fufficiently penetrating 
to reach them at thofe great depths. Cold produces the fame ef- 
fect upon frefh-water fifhes ; and when they are often feen dead 
after fevere frofts, it is moft probable that they have been killed 
by the fe verity of the cold, as well as by their being excluded by 
the ice from the air. 

All fifh live in the water ; yet they all ftand in need of air for 
their fupport. Thofe of the whale kind, indeed, breathe the air 
in the fame manner as we do, and come to the furface every two 
or three minutes, to take a frefh infpiration: but thofe which con- 
tinue entirely under water, are yet under a neceility of being 
fupplied with air, or they will expire in a very few minutes. We 
fometimes fee all the fifh of a pond killed, when the ice every 
where covers the furface of the water ; and thus keeps off the 
air from the fubjacent fluid. If a hole be made in the ice, the 
fifh will be feen to come all to that part, in order to take the be- 
nefit of a frefh fupply. Should a carp, in a large vafe of water, 
be placed under an air-pump, and then be deprived of its air, 
during the operation, a number of bubbles will be feen ftanding 
upon the furface of the fifh's body; foon after, the animal will 
appear to breathe fwifter and with greater difficulty: it will then 
be feen to rife towar.ds the furface to get more air; the bubbles 
on its furface begin to difappear ; the belly, that was before fwol- 
len, will then fall of a fudden, and the animal finks expiring and 
convulfed at the bottom. 

So very necefTary is air to all animals, but particularly to fifh, 
that, as was faid, they can live but a few minutes without it: 
yet nothing is more difficult to be accounted for, than the manner 
in which they obtain this necefTary fupply. Thofe who have 
feen a fifh in the water, muft remember the motion of its lips 
and its gills, or at leaft of the bones on each fide that cover them. 
This motion in the animal is, without doubt, analogous to our 
breathing, but it is not air, but water, that the fifh actually 
lucks in and fpouts out through the gills at every motion. The 
manner of its breathing is thus : the fifh firft takes a quantity of 


water by the mouth, which is driven to the gills; thefe clofe 
and keep the water fo f wallowed from returning by the mouth ; 
while the bony covering of the gills prevents it from going 
through them, until the animal has drawn the proper quantity 
of air from the body of water thus imprifoned : then the bony co- 
vers open and give it a free paffage; by which means alfo the 
gills again are opened, and admit a frefh quantity of water. 
Should the fifh be prevented from the free play of its gills, or 
fhould the bony covers be kept from moving, by a firing tied 
round them, the animal would foon fall into convulfions, and die 
in a few minutes. 

But though this be the general method of explaining refpira- 
tion in fifties, the difficulty remains, to know what is done with 
this air, which the fih in this manner feparates from the v/ater. 
There feems no receptacle for containing it; the ftomach being 
the chief cavity within the body, is too much filled with aliment 
for that purpofe. There is indeed a cavity, and that a pretty 
large one, I mean the air-blatu<.-r or fwirn, which may ferve to 
contain it for vital purpofes ; but that our philofophers have long 
deftined to a very different ufe. The life university affigned to 
the air-bladder, is the enabling the fifti to rile or fink in the wa- 
ter at pleafure, as that is dilated or comprciicd. The ufe afngned 
by the ancients for it was, to come in aid of the lungs, and to re- 
main as a kind of ftore-houfe of air to fupply the animal in its 
neceflities. I own my attachment to this lafl opinion ; but let 
us exhibit both with their proper ihare of evidence, and the rea- 
der muft be left to determine. 

The air-bladder is defcribed as a bag filled with air, fnmetimes 
compofed of one, fometimes of two, and fometimes of three divi- 
fions, fituated towards the back of the fifh, and opening into the 
maw or the gullet. Thofe who contend that this bag is defigned 
for raifing or depreiling the iifh in the v/ater, build upon the fol- 
lowing experiment. A carp being put into the air-pump and 
the air exhaufted, the bladder is faid to expand itfelf to fuch a de- 
gree, that the fifh fwells in an extraordinary manner till the blad- 
der burfts, and then the fifh finks, and ever after continues to 
crawl at the bottom. On another cccafion, the air-bladder was 


pricked and wounded, which let out its air ; upon which the fifht 
funk to the bottom, and was not feen to rife after. From thence 
it is inferred that the ufe of the air-bladder muft be by f welling 
at the will of the animal, thus to increafe the furface of the fifh's 
body, and thence diminifhing its fpecific gravity, to enable it to 
rife to the top of the water, and keep there at pleafure. On the 
contrary, when the fifh wants to defcend, it is, fay they, but to 
exhauft this bladder of its air 5 and the fifh being thus rendered 
flimmer and heavier, consequently finks to the bottom. 

Such is the account given of the ufe of the air-bladder; no" 
part of which feems to me well fupported. In the firft place, 
though nothing is more certain, than that a carp put into the air- 
purnp will fwell, yet fo will a moufe or a frog ; and thefe we 
know have no air-bladders. A carp will rife to the furface: but 
fo will all fifh that want air, whether they have an air-bladder Or 
not. The air-bladder is faid to burft in the experiment; but 
that I deny. The air-bladder is indeed found empty; but it has 
fuffered no laceration, and may be diftended by being blown into 
like any other bladder that is found. The fifh after the experi- 
ment, I grant, continues to creep at the bottom; and fo will all 
fim that are fick and wounded, which muft be the cafe with this 
after fuch an operation. Thus thefe facts prove nothing, but that 
when the fifh is killed in an air-pump, the air-bladder is found 
exhaufled; and that it will naturally and necefTarily be; for the 
drain of air by which the fifh is fupplied in the natural way, will 
neceflarily oblige it to make ufe of all its hidden ftores; and, as 
there is a communication between the gullet and the air-bladder, 
the air which the latter contains, will thus be obvicufly drawn 
away. But flill farther, how comes the air-bladder, according to 
their hypothecs, to fwell under the experiment of the air-pump ? 
What is it that clofes the aperture of that organ in fuch a man- 
ner as at laft to burft it ; or what neceflity has the fifh for dilating 
it to that violent degree ? At mofl, it only wants to rife to the 
furface ; and that the fifh can eafily do without fo great a diften- 
fion of the air-bladder. Indeed, it fhould rather fecm, that the 
more the air was wanted without, the lefs neceflity there was for 
its being u&lefsly accumulated within; and to make the modern 


fyftem confident, the fifh under the air-pump, inftead of permit- 
ting its bladder to be burfl, would readily give up its contents ; 
which, upon their fuppofition, all can do at pleafure. 

But the truth is, the fifh can neither increafe nor diminifh the 
quantity of air in its air-bladder at will, no more than we can 
that which is contained in our ftoniachs. The animal has no 
one mufcle, much lefs pair of mufcles for contracting or dilat- 
ing this organ ; its aperture is from the gullet; and what air is 
put into it, miift remain there till the neceffities, and not the 
will, of the animal, call it forth as a fupply. 

But, to put the matter paft a doubt, many fifh are furnifhed 
with an air-bladder that continually crawl at the bottom ; fuch 
as the eel and the flounder; and many more are entirely with- 
out any bladder, that fwim at eafe in every depth ; fuch as the 
anchovy and frefh- water gudgeon*. Indeed, the number of 
fifh that want this organ is alone a fufficient proof that it is 
not fo necefTary for the purpofes of fwimming : and as the ven- 
tral fins, which in all fifh lie flat upon the water, feem fully 
fuificient to keep them at all depths, I fee no great occafion for 
this internal philofophical apparatus for raifing and depreffing 
them. Upon the whole, the air-bladder feems adapted for dif- 
ferent purpofes than that of keeping the fifh at different depths 
in the water ; but whether it be to fupply them with air when 
it is wanted from without, or for what other purpofe, I will not 
take upon me to determine. 

Hitherto we have feen fifh in every refpecl inferior to land 
animals; in the fimplicity of their conformation, in their fenfes, 
nnd their enjoyments ; but of that humble exigence which they 
have been granted by nature, they have a longer term than any 
other clafs of animated nature. " Mod of the diforders incident 
to mankind," fays Bacon, " arife from the changes and alte- 
rations of the atmofphere ; but fifhes refide in an element little 
fubjeft to change; theirs, is an uniform exiftence; their move- 
ments are without effort, and their life without labour. Their 
bones alfo, which are united by cartilages, admit of indefinite 

* Red-. 


cxtenfion ; and the different fizes of animals of the fame kind 
among fifties is very various. They frill keep growing; their 
bodies, inftead of fuffering the rigidity of age, which is the caufe 
of natural decay in land animals, ftill continue increafing with 
frefh fupplies ; and as the body grows, the conduits of life fur- 
nifh their ftores in greater abundance. How long a fifh, that 
feems to have fcarce any bounds put to its growth, continues 
to live, is not afcertained ; perhaps the life of a man would not 
be long enough to meafure that of the fmalleft." 

There have been two methods devifed for determining the 
age of fifhes, which are more ingenious than certain; the one 
is^by the circles of the fcales, the other by the tranfverfe fec"tion 
of the back-bone. The firft method is this. When a fifh's 
fcale is examined through a microfcope, it will be found to con- 
fift of a number of circles, one circle within another, in fome 
rneafure refembling thofe which apnear upon the tranfverfe fec- 
tion of a tree, and fuppofed to offer the fame information. For, 
as in trees we can tell their age by the number of their circles, 
fo in fifhes we can tell theirs by the numbers of circles in 
every fcale, reckoning one ring for every year of the animal's 
exiftence. By this method, mr. Buffon found a carp, whofe 
fcales he examined, to be not lefs than an hundred years old; a 
thing almofi: incredible, had we not feveral accounts in other au- 
thors which tend to confirm the difcovery. Gefner brino-s us 
an inftance of one of the fame age; and Albertus of one more 
than double that period. 

The age of the fkate and ray, that want fcales, may be known 
by the other method; which is, by feparating the joints of the 
back-bone, and then minutely obferving the number of rings 
which the furface where it was joined exhibits. By this the 
fifh's age is faid to be known ; and perhaps with as much cer- 
tainty as in the former inftance. 

But how unfatisfa&ory foever thefc marks may be, we have 
no reafon to doubt the great age of fome fifhes. Thofe that 
have ponds often know the oldefl by their fuperior fize. But 
the longevity of thcfe animals is nothing when compared to 


their fecundity. All forts, a few of the larger ones exceptcd, 
multiply their kind, fome by hundreds and fome by millions. 
There are fome that bring forth their young alive, and fome 
that only produce eggs : the former are rather the leaft fruitful : 
yet even thefe are Teen to produce in great abundance. The 
viviparous blenny, for inftance, brings forth two or three hun- 
dred at a time, all alive and playing round the parent together. 
Thofc who exclude their progeny in a more imperfect date, and 
produce eggs, which they are obliged to leave to chance, either 
on the bottom, at the edge of the water, or floating on the fur- 
face where it is deeper, are all much more prolific; and feem to 
proportion their flock to the danger there is of its confumption. 
Of thefe eggs, thus depofited, fcarce one in an hundred brings 
forth an animal ; they are devoured by all the leiTer fry that fre- 
quent the mores ; by aquatic birds near the margin, and by the 
larger fifh in deep water. Still, however, there are enough for 
fupplying the deep with inhabitants ; and notwithftanding their 
own rapacity and that of the fowls of various tribes, the num- 
bers that efcape are furHcient to relieve the wants of a very con- 
fiderable part of mankind. Indeed, when we confider the num- 
bers that a fmgle fifh is capable of producing, the amount will 
feem aftoniming. If, for infrance, we fhouid be told of a being 
ib very prolific, that in a fmgle feafon it could bring forth as 
many of its kind as there are inhabitants in' England, it would 
itrike us with furprize; yet a fmgle cod produces full that 
number. The cod fpawns in one feafon, as Lewenhoeck afTures 
us, above nine million of eggs or peas contained in one fmgle 
roe. The flounder is commonly known to produce above one 
million; and the mackarel above five hundred thoufand. Such 
an amazing increafe, if permitted to come to maturity, would 
overftock nature, and even the ocean itfelf would not be able to 
contain, much lefs to provide for, the half of its inhabitants. But 
two wife purpofes are anfwcred by this amazing increafe; it 
rreferves the fpecies in the midft of numberlefs enemies, and 
ferves to furnifh the reft with a fuftenance adapted to their 

Fifties feem, all except the whale kind, entirely divefted cf 
fhofe parental folicitudes which fo ftrongly mark the manners of 


the more perfect terreftrial animals. How far they copulate, re- 
mains as yet a doubt ; for though they feem to join, yet the male 
is not furnimed with any external inilrument of generation. It 
is faid, by fome, that his only end in that action is to emit his 
impregnating milt upon the eggs that at that time fall from the 
female. He is faid to be feen purfuing them as they float down 
the ftream ; and carefully impregnating them one after another. 
On fome occafions alfo the females dig holes in the bottom of 
rivers and ponds, and there depofit their fpawn, which is impreg- 
nated by the male in the fame manner. All this, however, is 
very doubtful ; what we know with certainty of the matter, and 
that not difcovered till very lately, is, that the male has two or- 
gans of generation that open into the bladder of urine, and that 
thefe organs do not open into the rectum as in birds, but have 
a particular aperture of their own*. Thefe organs of generation 
in the male are empty at fome feafons of the year; but before 
the time of fpawning they are turgid with what is called the 
milt, and emit the fluid proper for impregnation. 

Fifh have different feafons for depofiting their fpawn ; fom~ 
that live in the depths of the ocean, are faid to choofe the winter 
months ; but, in general, thofe with which we are acquainted, 
choofe the hotteft months in fummer, and prefer fuch water as is 
fomewhat tepefied by the beams of the fun. They then leave 
the deepeft parts of the ocean, which are the coldeft, and fhoal 
round the coafts, or fwim up the frefh-water rivers, which are 
warm as they are comparatively fhallow. When they have de- 
pofited their burdens, they then return to their old ftations, and 
leave their nafcent progeny to fhift for themfelves. 

The fpawn continues in its egg-ftate in fome fifh longer than 
in others, and this in proportion to the animal's fize. Li the 
falmon, for inftance, the young animal continues in the eg<r 
from the beginning of December till the beginning of April; 
the carp continues in the egg not above three weeks: the little 
gold-fifh from China is produced ftill quicker. Thefe, ail when 
^excluded, at firft efcape by their minutenefs and agility. They 

* Vide G?.man de Generaticne Fifcium. 


rife, fink, and turn much readier than grown fifh; and they can 
cfcape into very (hallow waters when purfued. But, with all 
their advantages, fcarce one in a thoufand furvives the nume- 
rous perils of its youth. The very male and female that have 
given them birth, are equally dangerous and formidable v/ith the 
reft, forgetting all relation at their departure. 

Such is the general picture o. thefe heedlefs and hungry 
creatures : but there are fome in this clafs, living in the waters, 
that are pofiefled of finer organs and higher fenfations ; that have 
all the tendernefs of birds or quadrupeds for their young ; that 
nurfe them v/ith conftant care, and protect them from every in- 
jury. Of this clafs are the Cetaceous tribe, or the fiihes of the 
whale kind. There are others, though not capable of nurfing 
their young, yet that bring them alive into the world, and de- 
fend them with courage and activity. Thefe are the Cartilagi- 
nous kinds, or thofe that have griftles inftead of bones. But the 
fierce unmindful tribe we have been describing, that leave their 
fpawn without any protection, are called the Spinous or bony 
kinds, from their bones refembling the fharpnefs of thorns. 

Thus there are three grand divifions in the fifh kind: the 
cetaceous, the cartilaginous^ and thefpinous', all differing from 
each other in their conformation, their appetites, in their bringing 
forth, and in the education of their young. Thefe three great 
diftin&ionS are not the capricious differences formed by a maker 
of fyftems, but are ftrongly and firmly marked in nature. Thefe 
are the distinctions of Ariflotle: and they have been adopted bv 
mankind ever fince his time. It will be ncceflary, therefore, to 
give the biftory of each of thefe in particular; and then to range 
under each head, thofe fifhes whofe hiftory is the moft remark- 
able ; or, more properly fpeakirig, thofe of which we have any 
hiftory. For we fhall find, when we come to any of the fpecies 
in particular, how little can be faid of their habits, their ftations, 
or method of propagation. 

Much, indeed, can be faid of them, if confidered relatively to 
man ; and large books have been written of the manner of tak- 
irg fifh, or of drefiing them. Apicius is noted for having firfl 


taught mankind to fuffbcate fim in Carthaginian pickle; and 
Quin for giving a fauce to the Johndory; mrs. Glafs is famous for 
her eel pie, and mr. Tull for his invention of fpaying carp, to give 
it a finer flavour. In this manner our cooks handle the fubjeL 
On the other hand, our-phyficians affure us that the flefh of 
fifties yields little nourifhment, and foon corrupts; that it 
abounds in a grofs fort of oil and water, and hath but a few 
volatile particles, which renders it lefs fit to be converted into 
the fubftance of our bodies. They are cold and moift, and rnuft 
needs, fay they, produce juices of the fame kind, and confe- 
quently are improper to ftrengthen the body. In this diversity 
of opinion, it is the wifeft way to eat our fim in the ordinary 
manner, and pay no great attention to cooks or doctors. 

I cannot conclude this chapter without putting a queftion to 
the learned, which, I confefs, I am not able to refolve. How- 
comes it, that fifh which are bred in a fait element have yet no 
fait to the taite, or that is capable of being extra6red from it ? 


Of Cetaceous Fijhes in general. 

AS on land there are fome orders of animals that feem formed 
to command the reft, with greater powers and more va- 
rious inftin&s, foin the ocean there are fifties which feem formed 
upon a nobler plan than others, and that, to their fiftiy form, 
join the appetites and the conformation of quadrupeds. Thefe 
all are of the cetaceous kind; and fo much raifed above their fel- 
lows of the deep, in their appetites and inftin&s, that almoft 
all our modern naturalifts have fairly excluded them from the 
finny tribes, and will have them called, not fifhes, but, great 
beafts of the ocean. With them it would be as improper to fay- 
men go to Greenland, fifhing for whale, as it would be to fty 
that a fportfman goes to Blackwall a fowling for rr.ackarel. 


Yet, notwithflanding philofophers, mankind will always have 
their own way of talking; and for my own part I think them 
here in the right. A different formation of the lungs, ftomach 
and inteftines, a dirk-rent manner of breathing or propagating:, 
are not fufiicient to counterbalance the great obvious analogy 
which thefe animals bear to the whole finny tribe. They are 
fhaped as other fillies ; they fwim with fins ; they are entirely 
naked, without hair; they live in the water, though they come 
up to breathe : they are only feeri in the depths of the ocean, and 
never come upon ihore but when forced thither. Thefe fure are 
fufncient to plead in favour of the general denomination, and ac- 
quit mankind of error in ranking them with their lower compa- 
nions of the deep. 

But frill they are as many degrees raifed above other fifhes 
in their nature, as they are in general in their fize. This tribe 
is compofed of the whale and its varieties, of the cachalot, the 
dolphin, the grampus, and the porpoife. All thefe refemble qua- 
drupeds in their internal itru&ure, and in fome of their appetites 
and affections. Like quadrupeds, they have lungs, a midriff, a 
ftomach, interlines, liver, fpleen, bladder, and parts of genera- 
tion; their heart alfo refembles that of quadrupeds, with its 
partitions clofed up as in them, and driving red and warm blood 
in circulation through the body. In fhcrt, every internal part 
bears a mod ftriking firmlitude; and to keep thefe parts warm, 
the whole kind are alfo covered between the fkin and the muf- 
cles with a thick coat cf fat or blubber, which, like the bacon-fat 
of an hog, keeps out the cold, renders their mufcles glib and pli- 
ant, and probably makes them lighter in fwimrning. 

As thefe animals breathe the air, it is obvious that they can- 
not bear to be any long time under water. They are conftrain- 
ed, therefore, every two or three minutes, to come up to the 
fur face to take breath, as well as to fpout out through their 
noflril, for they have but one, that water which they fucked in 
while gaping for their prey. This conduit, by which they breathe, 
and alfj throw out the water, is placed in the head, a little be- 
fore the brain. Though externally the hole is but fingle, it- 
is internally .divided by a bony partition, which is clofed by a 


(pliin&er mufcle on the infide, that, like the mouth of a purfe, 
ftiuts it up at the pleafure of the animal. There is alfo another 
mufcle or valve> which prevents the water from going down the 
gullet. When therefore the animal takes in a certain quantity 
of water, which is necefTary to be difcharged and feparated from 
its food, it fliuts the mouth, clofes the valve of the flomach, 
opens the fphincter that kept the noftril clofed, and then breath- 
ing ftrongly from the lungs, pufhes the water out by the effort, 
as we fee it rife by the prefTure of air in a fire-engine. 

The fenfes of thefe animals feem alfo fuperior to thofe of 
other fifties* The eyes of other fifties, we have obferved, are 
covered only with that tranfparent fkin that covers the reft of 
the head ; but in all the cetaceous kinds, it is covered by eye- 
lids, as in man* This, no doubt, keeps that organ in a more 
perfect ftate, by giving it intervals of relaxation, in which all 
vifion is fufpended. The other fifties that are for ever flaring, 
muft fee, if for no other reafon, more feebly, as their organs of 
fight are always exerted* 

As for hearing, thefe alfo are furnifhed with the internal in-< 
ftruments of the ear, although the external orifice no where 
appears. It is moft probable that this orifice may open by fome 
canal, refembling the Euftachian tube, into the mouth; but this 
has not as yet been difcovered. 

Yet nature fure has not thus formed a complete apparatus 
for hearing, and denied the animal the ufe of it when formed. It 
is moft likely that all anirnals of the Cetaceous kind can hear, 
as they certainly utter founds, and bellow to each other. This 
vocal power Would be as needlefs to animals naturally deaf, as 
glafles to a man that was blind. 

But it is in the circumftances in which they continue their 
kind, that thefe animals fliew an eminent fuperiority. Other 
fifties depofit their fpawn, and leave the fuccefs to accident : thefe 
never produce above one young, or two at the moft ; and this the 
female fuckles entirely in the manner of quadrupeds, her breafts 
being placed, as in the human kind, above the navel. We have 

VOL, III. R r 


read many fabulous accounts of the nurfmg of the demigods of 
antiquity, of their feeding on the marrow of lions, and their be- 
ing fucklcd by wolves; one might imagine a frill more heroic 
fyftem of nutrition, if we fuppofed that the young hero was 
fuckled and grew ftrong upon the breaft-milk of a fhe- whale. 

The whale or the grampus are terrible at any time; but 
are fierce and defperate in the defence of their young. In Wal- 
ler's beautiful poem of the Summer Iflands, we have a ftory, 
founded upon fact, which fhews the maternal tendernefs of thefc 
animals for their offspring. A whale and her cub had got into 
an arm of the fea, where, by the defertion of the tide, they were 
enclofed on every fide. The people from fhore foon faw their 
fituationj and drove down upon them in boats, with fuch wea- 
pons as the urgent occafion offered. The two animals were 
foon wounded in feveral places, and the whole fea round was 
tinctured with their blood. The whales made feveral attempts 
to efcape ; and at laft the old one, by its fuperior ftrength, forced 
over the {hallow, into the depths of the ocean. But though in 
fafety herfelf, (he could not bear the danger that awaited her young 
one ; fhe therefore ruflied in once more where the final ler animal 
was imprifoned, and refolved, when fhe could not protect, at 
leaft to fhare its danger. The ftory ends with poetical juftice; 
for the tide coming in, brought off both in fafety from their 
enemies, though not without fuftaining an infinite number of 
wounds in every part. 

As to the reft, the diftin&ive marks of this tribe are, that 
the number of their fins never exceed three ; namely, two pec- 
toral fins, and one back fin ; but in fome forts the laft is want- 
ing. Thefe fins differ very much from thofe of other fifties, 
which are formed of ftraight fpines : the fins of the cetaceous tribe 
are made up of bones and mufcles; and the fkeleton of one of 
their fins, very much refembles the fkeleton of a man's hand. 
Their tails alfo are different from thofe of all other fifh : they 
are placed fo as to lie flat on the furface of the water ; while 
the other kinds have them, as we every day fee, upright or 
edgeways. This flat pofitum of the tail in cetaceous animals, 


enables them to force themfelves fuddenly to the furface of the 
water to breathe, which they are continually conftrained to do. 

Of thefe enormous animals, fome are without teeth, and pro- 
perly called whales ; others have the teeth only in the lower jaw, 
and are called, by the French, cachalots : the nar whale has teeth 
only in the upper jaw: the dolphin's teeth, as well as thofe of 
the porpoife and grampus, are both above and below. Thefe 
are the marks that ferve to diftinguifti the kinds of this enor- 
mous tribe from each other, and thefe fhall ferve to guide us, in 
giving their hiftory. 


Of the Wkali^ properly fo called^ and Its Varieties. 

IF we compare land animals, in refpe6t to magnitude, with 
thofe of the deep, they will appear contemptible in the com- 
petition. It is probable, indeed, that quadrupeds once exifted 
much larger than we find them at prefent. From the fkeletons 
of fome that have been dug up at different times, it is evident, 
that there muft have been terreftrial animals twice as large as 
the elephant; but creatures of fuch an immenfe bulk required a 
proportionable extent of ground for fubfiftence, and, by being 
rivals with men for large territory, they muft have been deftroy- 
ed in the conteft. 

But it is not only upon land, that man has exerted his power 
of deftroying the larger tribes of Animated Nature; he has ex- 
tended his efforts even into the midft of the ocean, and has cut 
off numbers of thofe enormous animals that had, perhaps, ex- 
ifted for ages. We now no longer hear of whales two hundred, 
and two hundred and fifty feet long, which we are certain were 
often feen about two centuries ago. They have all been deftroy- 
ed by the fldll of mankind, and the fpecies is now dwindled into 
a race of diminutive animals, from thirty to about eighty feet 


The northern feas were once the region to which the great- 
eft of thefe animals reforted; but fo great has been the {laughter 
of whales for more than two ages, that they begin to grow thin- 
ner every day ; and thefe that are found there, feem, from their 
fize, not come to their full dimenfions. The greateft whales 
refort to places where they have the leaft difturbance ; to thofc 
feas that are on the oppofite fide of the globe, near the fouth 
pole. In that part of the world, there are ftill to be feen whales 
that are above an hundred and fixty feet long; and perhaps 
even longer might be found in thofe latitudes near the fouth 
pole, to which we have not as yet ventured. 

Taking the whale, however, at the ordinary fize of eighty 
feet long and twenty feet high, what an enormous animated 
mafs muft it appear to the fpe&ator ! With what amazement 
muft it ftrike him, to behold fo great a creature gambolling in 
the deep, with the eafe and agility of the fmalleft animal, and 
making its way with incredible fwiftnefs ! This is a fight which 
is very common to thofe who frequent the northern or foutheru 
ocean. Yet though this be wonderful, perhaps ftill greater 
wonders are concealed in the deep, which we have not had op- 
portunities of exploring. Thefe large animals are obliged to 
fhew themfelves in order to take breath ; but who knows the 
fize of thofe that are fitted to remain for ever under water: and 
that have been increafing in magnitude for centuries ? To be- 
lieve all that has been faid of the fea-ferpent, or the kraken, 
would be credulity; to reject the poffibility of their exiftence, 
would be prefumption. 

The whale is the largeft animal of which we have any certain 
information ; and the various purpofes to which, when taken, 
its different parts are converted, have brought us tolerably ac- 
quainted with its hiftory. Of the whale, properly fo called, 
there are no lefs than feven different kinds; all diftinguiflied 
from each other by their external figure, or internal conforma- 
tion. The great Greenland whale, without a back-fin, and 
black on the back; the Iceland whale, without a back-fin, 
?ind whitifh on the back: the New England whale, with a 
hump on the back 5 the whale, with fix humps on the tack j 


the fin-fifti, with a fin on the back near the tail; the pike- 
headed whale, and the round-lipped whale. All thefe differ from 
each other in figure, as their names obvioufly imply. They 
differ alfo fomewhat in their manner of living ; the fin-fifh hav- 
ing a larger fwallow than the reft, being more active, flender 
and fierce, and living chiefly upon herrings. However, they are 
none of them very voracious ; and, if compared to the cachalot, 
that enormous tyrant of the deep, they appear harmlefs and gen- 
tle. The hiftory of the reft, therefore, may be-tomprifed under 
that of the great common Greenland whale, with which we are 
Jbeft acquainted. 

The great Greenland whale is the fim for taking which there 
are fuch preparations made in different parts of Europe. It is a 
large heavy animal, and the head alone makes a third of its 
tulk. It is ufually found from fixty to feventy feet long. The 
fins on each fide are from five to eight feet, compofed of bones 
and mufcles, and fufficientiy ftrong to give the great mafs of 
body, which they move, fpeed and activity. The tail, which 
lies flat on the water, is about twenty-four feet broad; and, 
when the fifh lies on one fide, its blow is tremendous. The 
fkin is fmooth and black, and in fome places marbled with white 
and yellow; which, running over the furface, has a very beauti- 
ful effect. This marbling is particularly obfervable in the fins 
and the tail. In the figures which are thus drawn by nature, 
fancy often forms the pictures of trees, landfcapes and houfes. 
In the tail of one that was thus marbled, Ray tells us, that the 
number 122 was figured very evenly and exact,, as if done with 
a pencil. 

The whale makes ufe only of the tail to advance itfelf for- 
ward in the water. This ferves as a great oar to pufh its mafs 
along; and it is furprifmg to fee with what force and celerity its 
enormous bulk cuts through the ocean. The fins are only made 
ufe of for turning in the water, and giving a direction to the 
velocity impreffed by the tail. The female alfo makes ufe of 
them when purfued, to bear off her young, clapping them on her 
Iback, and fupporting them by the fins on each fide from falling. 


The outward fcarf or fkin of the whale is no thicker than 
parchment; but this removed, the real fkin appears, of about 
an inch thick, and covering the fat or blubber that lies beneath : 
this is from eight to twelve inches in thicknefs ; and is, when 
the fim is in health, of a beautiful yellow. The mufcles lie 
beneath ; and thefe, like the flefh of quadrupeds, are very red 
and tough. 

The cleft of the mouth is above twenty feet long, which is 
near one third of the animal's v/hole length; and the upper jaw 
is furnifhed with barbs, that lie like the pipes of an organ, the 
greateft in the middle, and the fmalldl to the fides. Thefe 
compofe the whale-bone, the longeft fpars of which are found 
to be not lefs than eighteen feet: the fhorteft, being of no value, 
are thrown away. The tongue is almoft immoveably fixed to 
the lower jaw, feeming one great lump of fat; and, in fa6t, it 
fills feveral hogflieads with blubber. The eyes are not larger 
than thofe of an ox : and when the cryftaline humour is dried, 
do not appear larger than peas. They are placed towards 
the back of the head, being the moft convenient fituation for 
enabling them to fee both before and behind; as alfo to fee over 
them, where their food is principally found. They are guarded 
by eye-lids and eye-lames, as in quadrupeds; and they feeni 
to be very fharp-fighted. 

Nor is their fenfe of hearing in lefs perfection ; for they are 
warned, at great diftances, of any danger preparing againft them. 
It would feem as if nature had defignedly given them thefe ad- 
vantages, as they multiply little, in order to continue their kind. 
It is true, indeed, that the external organ of hearing is not per- 
ceptible, for this might only embarrafs them in their natural ele- 
ment ; but as foon as the thin fcarf-fkin above-mentioned is re- 
moved, a black fpot is difcovered behind the eye, and under that 
is the auditory canal, that leads to a regular apparatus for hear- 
ing;. In fhort, the animal hears the frnalleft founds at very great 
diftances, and at all times, except when it is fpouting water ; 
which is the time that the rimers approach to ftrike it. 

Thefe fpout-holes or noftrils, in all the cetaceous tribe, have 
been already defcribed : in this whale they are two j one on each 


fide the head, before the eyes, and crooked, fomewhat like the 
holes on the belly of a violin. From thefe holes this animal 
blows the water very fiercely, and with fuch a noife, that k roars 
like a hollow wind, and may be heard at three miles diftance. 
When wounded, it then blows more fiercely than ever, fo that it 
founds like the roaring of the fea in a great ftorm. 

We have already obferved, that the fubftance called whale- 
bone, is taken from the upper jaw of the animal, and is very dif- 
ferent from the real bones of the whale. The real bones are 
hard, like thofe of great land animals, are very porous, and filled 
with marrow. Two great ftrong bones fuftain the under lip, 
lying againft each other in the {hape of an half-moon : fome of 
thefe are twenty feet long; ; they are feen in feveral gardens fat 
up againft each other, and are ufually miftaken for the ribs of 
this animal. 

Such is the general conformation and figure of this great in- 
habitant of the deep, the precife anatomy of which has not been 
yet afcertained. In thofe places where they are caught i,n greateft 
abundance, the failors are not very curious as to the ftrufture 
of the vifcera; and few anatomifts care to undertake a tafk, 
where the operator, inftead of feparating with a lancet, mud cut 
his way with an ax. It is as yet doubted, therefore, whether the 
whale, that in moft points internally refembles a quadruped, may 
not have one great bowel fitted entirely for the reception of air 
to fupply it, when conftrsined to keep longer than ufual ?.t the 
bottom. The failors univerfally affirm that it has ; and philo- 
fophers have nothing but the analogy of its parts to oppofe to their 
general after tions. 

As thefe animals referable quadrupeds in conformation, fo they 
be:-:r a ftrong refemblance in fome of their appetites and manners. 
The female joins with the male, as is aiTerted, more kumano^ and 
once in two years feels the accefTes of defir :. 

Their fidelity to each other exceeds whatever we are told of 
even the conftancy of birds. Some fimers, as Andcrfon informs 
us, having {truck one of two whales, a male and female, that 
were in company together, the wounded fifh made a lon^ and 

320 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

ten ible refinance; it ftruck down a boat with three men in it$ 
with ; fmgle blow of the tail, by which all went to the bottom. 
Tiv; other ftill attended its companion, and lent it every aflift- 
ance; till, at laft, the fifh that was ftruck, funk under the num- 
ber of its wounds; while its faithful affociate, difdaining to 
furvive the lofs, with great bellowing, ftretched itfelf upon the 
dead fifh, and fhared his fate. 

The whale goes with young nine or ten months, and is then 
fatter than ufual, particularly when near the time .of bringing 
forth. It is faid that the embryo, when firft perceptible, is about 
feventeen inches long, and white: but the cub, when excluded, 
is black, and about ten feet long. She generally produces one 
young one, and never above two. When flie fuckles her young, 
file throws herfelf on one fide on the furface of the fea, and the 
young one attaches itfelf to the teat. The breafts are two; 
generally hid within the belly; but fhe can produce them at 
pleafure, fo as to ftand forward a foot and an half, or two feet ; 
and the teats are like thofe of a cow. In Come, the breafts are 
white; in others, fpeckled; in all, filled with a large quantity 
of milk, refembling that of land animals* 

Nothino- can exceed the tendemefs of the female for her of?- 


fpring ; fhe carries it with her wherever fhe goes, and when 
hardeft purfued, keeps it fupported between her fins. Evert 
when wounded, fhe ftill clafps her young one; and when file 
plunges to avoid danger, takes it to the bottom; but rifes fooner 
than ufual, to give it breath again. 

The young ones continue at the breaft for a year ; during 
which time, they are called by the failors, Jbort -beads. They 
are then extremely fat, and yield above fifty barrels of blubber. 
The mother, at the fame time, is equally lean and emaciated. 
At the age of two years, they are called ftunts^ as they do not 
thrive much, immediately after quitting the breaft: they then 
yield fcarce above twenty, or twenty-four, barrels of blubber $ 
from that time forward, they are called fkull-fijb^ and their age 
is wholly unknown. 

Every fpecies of whale propagates only with thofe of its own 
kind, and does not at all mingle with the reft : however, they 


are generally feen in fhoals, of different kinds together, and 
make their migrations in large companies, from one ocean to 
another. They are a gregarious animal, which implies their 
want of mutual defence againft the invafions of fmaller, but 
more powerful fifties. It feems aftonifhing, therefore, how a 
fhoal of thefe enormous animals find fubfiftence together, when 
it would feem, that the fupplying even one with food, would 
require greater plenty than the ocean could furnifh. To increafe 
our wonder, we not only fee them herding together, but ufually 
find them fatter than any other animals of whatfoever element. 
We likewife know that they cannot fwallow large fifhes, as 
their throat is fo narrow, that an animal larger than an herring 
could not enter. How then do they fubfift and grow fo fat ? 
A fmall infect which is feen floating in thofe feas, and which 
Linnaeus terms the medufa, is fufficient for this fupply. Thefe 
infects are black, and of the fize of a fmall bean, and are fome- 
times feen floating in clutters on the furface of the water. They 
are of a round form, like fnails in a box ; but they have wino-s, 
which are fo tender that it is fcarce poffible to touch them with- 
out breaking. Thefe ferve rather for fwimming than flying; 
and the little animal is called by the Icelanders, the walfifchoas, 
which fignifies the whale's provender. They have the tafte of 
raw mufcles, and have the frnell of burnt fugar. Thefe are the 
food of the whale, which it is feen to draw up in great num- 
bers with its huge jaws, and tobruife between its barbs, which 
are always found with feveral of thefe flicking among' them. 

This is the fimple food of the great Greenland whale; it 
purfues no other animal, leads an inofFenfive life in its element, 
and is harmlefs in proportion to its ftrength to do mifchief. There 
feems to be an analogy between its manners and thofe of the 
elephant. They are both the ftrongeft and the largeft animals 
in their refpedive elements, neither offer injury, but are terrible 
when provoked to refentment. The fin-nYn, indeed, in fome 
meafure, differs from the great whale in this particular, as it fub- 
fifts chiefly upon herrings, great fhoals of which it is often feen 
driving before it. Yet even the fwallow of this fifh is not very 
large, if compared to the cachalot tribe; and its ravages are but 

VOL. III. S f 


fports in comparifon. The ftorriach and inteftines of all thefe 
animals, when opened, feldom have any thing in them, except a 
foft un&uous fubftance, of a brownifh colour ; and their excre- 
ments arc of a ihining red. 

As the whale is an inofFenfive animal, it is not to be wonder- 
ed that it has many enemies, willing to take advantage of its dif- 
pofition, arid inaptitude for combat. There is a fmall animal, of 
the fhell-fifh kind, called the whale-loufe, that flicks to its body, 
as we fee fhells flicking to the foul bottom of a {hip. This in- 
fmuates itfelf chiefly under the fins; and whatever efforts the 
great animal makes, it rtill keeps its hold, and lives upon the fat, 
which it is provided with inftruments to arrive at. 

The fword-fifh, however, is the whale's moft terrible enemy. 
"At the fight of this little animal," fays Anderfon, " the whale 
feems agitated in an extraordinary manner; leaping from the 
water as if with affright ; v/herever it appears, the whale per- 
ceives it at a difrance, and flies from it in the oppofite direction. 
I have been myfelf," continues he, " a fpe&ator of their terrible 
encounter. The whale has no inftrument of defence except the 
tail ; with that it endeavours to ftrike the enemy ; and a fingle 
blow taking place, would effectually deftroy its adverfary : but 
the fword-fifh is as active as the other is ftrong, and eafily avoids 
the ftroke; then bounding into the air, it falls upon its great 
fubjacent enemy, and endeavours not to pierce with its pointed 
beak, but to cut with its toothed edges. The fea all about is 
foon dyed with blood, proceeding from the wounds of the whale ; 
while the enormous animal vainly endeavours to reach its inva- 
der, and ftrikes with its tail againft the furface of the water, 
making a report at each blow louder than the noife of a cannon." 

There is ftill another and more powerful enemy, called by the 
fifhermen of New England, the killer. This is itfelf a cetace- 
ous animal, armed with ftrong and powerful teeth. A number 
of thefe are faid to furround a whale, in the fame manner as dogs 
get round a bull. Some attack it with their teeth behind; others 
attempt it before ; until, at laft, the great animal is torn down, 
and its tongue is faid to be the only part they devour when they 


have made it their prey. They arefaid to be of fuch great ftrength, 
that one of them alone was known to flop a dead whale that fe- 
veral boats were towing along, and drag it from among them to 
the bottom. 

But of all enemies of thefe enormous fifties, man is the great- 
eft: he alone deftroys more in a year than the reft in an age, 
and aclually has thinned their numbers in that part of the world 
where they are chiefly fought. The great refort of thefe ani- 
mals was found to be on the inhofpitable fhores of Spitsbergen; 
where the diftance of the voyage, the coldnefs of the climate, the 
terrors of the icy fea, and, frill more, their own formidable bulk, 
might have been expe&ed to protect them from human injury. 
But all thefe were but flight barriers againft man's arts, his 
courage, and his neceffities. The European {hips, foon after 
the improvement of navigation, found the way into thofe feas: 
and as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Bif- 
cayneers were in pofTeffion of a very confiderable trade to the 
coafts of Greenland. The Dutch and the English followed them 
thither, and foon took that branch of commerce out of their hands. 
The Englifh commenced the bufmefs about the beginning 
of the feventeenth century ; and the town of Hull had the honour 
of firft attempting that profitable branch of trade. But, at prefent > 
it feems upon the decline, as the quantity of fifh is fo greatly 
reduced, by the conftant capture for fuch a vaft length of time. 
It is now faid, that the fimers, from a defect of whales, apply 
themfelves to the feal-fifhery ; yet, as thefe animals are ex- 
tremely timorous, they will foon be induced to quit tbofe fhores, 
where they meet fuch frequent difturbance and danger. The 
poor natives of Greenland themfelves, who ufed to feed upon 
the whale, are diminifhing, in proportion as their fuftenance is 
removed; and, it is probable, that the revolution of a few years 
will fee that extenfive coaft totally deferted by its inhabitants, 
as it is already nearly deferted by the whales. 

The art of taking whales, like moft others, is much improved 
by time, and differs in many refpe&s from that pra6tifed by the 
Bifcayneers, when they firft frequented the icy fea. But as the 
defcription of their methods is the leaft complicated,, and con&- 


quently the eafieft underftood, it will be beft fuited to our pur- 

For this navigation, the Bifcayneers, in favourable feafons, 
fitted out thirty fhips, of two hundred and fifty tons each, with 
fifty choice men each, and a few boys. Thefe were ftored 
with fix months provifion ; and each mip had its boats, which 
were to be ferviceable when come to the place of duty. When 
arrived at the part where the whales are expected to pafs to the 
fouthward, they always keep their fails fet, and a failor is placed 
at the maft head, to give information when he fpies a whale. 
As foon as he difcovers one, the whole crew are inftantly in 
employment: they fit out their boats and row away to where the 
whale was feen. The harpooner who is to ftrike the fifh, ftands 
at the prow of the boat with an harpoon or javelin in his hand, 
five or fix feet long, pointed with fteel, like the barb of an arrow, 
of a triangular fhape. As this perfon's place is that of the great- 
eft dexterity, fo alfo it is of the greateft danger : the whale 
fometimes overturns the boat with a blow of its tail, and fome- 
times drives againft it with fury. In general, however, the animal 
feems to fleep on the furface of the water ; while the boat ap- 
proaching, the harpooner ftands aloft, and with his harpoon tied 
to a cord of feveral hundred fathom length, darts it into the ani- 
mal, and then rows as faft as poffible -away. It is fome 
time before the whale feems to feel the blow ; the inftniment has 
ufually pierced no deeper than the fat, and that being infenfible, 
the animal continues for a while motionlefs ; but, foon rouzed 
from its feeming lethargy, as the maft continues to pierce deep- 
er and deeper into the mufcular flefh, it flies off with amazing 
rapidity. In the mean time, the harpoon fticks in its fide; 
while the rope, which is coiled up in the boat, and runs upon a 
fwivel, lengthens as the whale recedes, but ftill mows the part 
of the deep to which it has retreated. The cord is coiled up 
with great care; for fuch is the rapidity with which it runs off, 
that if it was but the leaft checked, as it yields with the animal's 
retreat, it would infallibly overfet the boat, and the crew 
would go to the bottom. "It fometimes happens alfo, that the 
rapidity w-h which it runs over the fwivel at the edge of the 


boat, heats it, and it would infallibly take fire, did not a man 
{land continually with a wet mop in his hand, to cool the fwi- 
vel as the cord runs. The whale having dived to a confiderable 
depth, remains at the bottom, fometimes for near half an hour, 
with the harpoon in its body, and then rifes to take breath, 
expecting the danger over: but the inftant it appears, they are 
all with their boats ready to receive it, and fling their harpoons 
into its body : the animal again dives and again rifes, while they 
repeat their blows. The {hip follows in full fail, like all the reft, 
never lofmg fight of the boats, and ready to lend them affifl- 
ance : the whole ocean feems dyed in blood. Thus they renew 
their attacks, till the whale begins to be quite enfeebled and 
fpent, when they plunge their longer fpears into various parts 
of its body, and the enormous animal expires. When it is dead, 
to prevent it from finking, they faften it with a ftrong iron chain 
to the fide of a boat, and either cut it up in pieces, and carry it 
home in that manner, or extract the oil from the blubber on 

Such is the manner in which thefe fim were taken in the be- 
ginning ; but fucceeding arts have improved the method, and the 
harpoon is now thrown by ; a machine being ufed which inflicts 
a deeper wound, and ftrikes the animal with much greater cer- 
tainty : there are better methods for extracting the oil, and pro- 
perer machines for cutting the animal up, than were ufed in the 
early fifiieries. But as an account of this belongs to the hiftory 
of art, and not of nature, we muft be contented, v/ith obferving, 
that feveral parts of this animal, and all but the inteftines and 
the bones, are turned to very good account ; not only the oil, 
but the greaves from which it is feparated. The barbs alfo 
were an article of great profit ; -but have funk in their price, 
fince women no longer ufe them to fwell out their petticoats 
with whale-bone. The flefli of this animal is alfo a dainty to 
fome nations ; and even the French feamen are now and then 
found to drefs and ufe it as their ordinary diet at fea. It is faid, 
by the Englifh and Dutch failors, to be hard and ill tailed; 
but the French aflert the contrary; and the favages of Green- 
land, as well as thofe near the fouth pole, are fond of it to dif- 


traction. They eat the flefh, and drink the oil, which is a firft- 
rate delicacy. The finding a dead whale is an adventure con- 
fidered among the fortunate circumftances of their wretched 
lives. They make their abode befide it ; and feldom remove 
till they have left nothing but the bones. 

Jacobfon, whom we quoted before in the Hiftory of Birds, 
where he defcribes his countrymen, of the ifland of Feroe, as 
living a part of the year upon falted gulls, tells us alfo, that 
they are very fond of falted whale's flefli. The fat of the head 
they feafon with bay fait, and then hang it up to dry in the 
chimney. He thinks it tafles as well as fat bacon ; and the lean, 
which they boil, is, in his opinion, not inferior to beef. I fancy 
poor Jacobfon would make but an indifferent tafter at one 
e>f our city feafts ! 


Of the Narwhale. 

FROM whales that entirely want teeth, we come to fuch 
as have them in the upper jaw only ; and in this clafs 
there is found but one, the narwhale, or fea-unicorn. This fifh 
is not fo large as the whale, not being above fixty feet long. Its 
body is flenderer than that of the whale, and its fat not in fo great 
abundance. But this great animal is fufficiently diftinguimedfrom 
all others of the deep by its tooth or teeth, which ftand pointing 
directly forward from the upper jaw, and are from nine to four- 
teen feet long. In all the variety of weapons with which na- 
ture has armed her various tribes, there is not one fo large or fo 
formidable as this. This terrible weapon is generally found fin- 
gle; and fome are of opinion, that the animal is furnimed but 
with one by nature ; but there is at prefent the fkull of a nar- 
whale at the Stadthoufe at Amfterdam, with two teeth; which 
plainly proves, that in fome animals, at leaft, this inftrument is 
double. It is even a doubt, whether it may not be fo in all j and 


that the narwhale's wanting a tooth is only an accident which it 
has met with in the encounters it is obliged daily to be engaged 
in. Yet it muft be owned of theft-, that are taken only with onz 
tooth, there fcems no focket nor no remains of any other upon the 
oppofite fide of the jaw; but all is plain and even. However 
this be, the tooth, or, as fome are pleafed to call it, the horn of 
the narwhale, is the moft terrible of all natural inftruments of 
deftruction. It is as ftraight as an arrow, about the thicknefs 
of the fmall of a man's leg, wreathed in a manner we fometimes 
fee twifted bars of iron ; it tapers to a fharp point ; and is whit- 
er, heavier, and harder than ivory. It is generally feen to fpring 
from the left fide of the head directly forward in a ftraight line 
with the body; and its root enters into the focket above a foot 
and an half. In a fkull to be feen at Hamburgh, there are two 
teeth, which are each above feven feet long, and are eight inches 
in circumference. When the animal, poflefTed of thefe formidable 
weapons, is urged to employ them, it drives directly forward 
againft the enemy with its teeth, that, like portended fpears, 
pierce whatever ftands before them. 

The extreme length of thefe inftruments has induced fome to 
confider them rather as horns than teeth; but they in every re- 
fpect refemble the tufks of the bear and the elephant. They grow, 
as in them, from fockets in the upper jaw; they have the folidity 
of the hardeft bone, and far furpafs ivory in all its qualities. The 
fame error has led others to fuppofe, that as among quadrupeds the 
female was often found without horns, fo thefe inftruments of de- 
fence were only to be found in the male; but this has been more 
than once refuted by actual experience; both fexes are found 
armed in this manner ; the horn is fometimes found wreathed, 
and fometimes fmooth ; fometimes a little bent, and fometimes 
ftraight ; but always ftrong, deeply fixed, and marply pointed. 

Yet, notwithstanding all thefe appointments for combat, thefe 
long and pointed tufks, amazing ftrength, and unmatchable ce- 
lerity, the narwhale is one of the moft harmlefs and peaceable in- 
habitants of the ocean. It is feen conftantly and inofFenfively 
fporting among the other great monfters of the deep, no way at- 
tempting to injure them, but pleafed in their company. The 


Greenlanders call the narwhale the fore-runner of the whale; 
for wherever it is feen, the whale is fliortly after fure to follow. 
This may arife as well from the natural pailion for fociety in thefc 
animals, as from both living upon the fame food, which are the 
infects defcribed in the preceding chapter. Thefe powerful fifties 
make war upon no other living creature; and, though furnifhed 
with instruments to fpread general deftru&ion, are as innocent 
and as peaceful as a drove of oxen. Nay, fo regardlefs are they 
of their own weapons, and fo utterly unmindful to keep them in 
repair for engagement, that they are conftantly feen covered over 
with weeds, flough, and all the filth of the fea; they feem rather 
confidered as an impediment than a defence. 

The manners and appetites both of the narwhale and the great 
whale are entirely fimilar ; they both alike want teeth for chew- 
ing, and are obliged to live upon infecb ; they both are peaceable 
andharmlefs, and always rather fly than feekthe combat. The 
narwhale, however, has a much narrower gape than the great 
whale, and therefore does not want the ufe of barbs to keep in 
its food when once fucked into the mouth. It is alfo much 
fwifter, and would never be taken by the fiflierman but for thofe 
very tufks, which at firft appear to be its principal defence. 
Thefe animals, as was faid, being fond of living together, are al- 
ways feen in herds of feveral at a time; and whenever they are 
attacked, they crowd together in fuch a manner, that they are 
mutually embarrafled by their tufks. By thefe they are often 
locked together, and are prevented from finking to the bottom. 
It feldom happens, therefore, but the fifhermen make fure of one 
or two of the hindmoft, which very well reward their trouble. 

It is from the extraordinary cifcumftance of the teeth, there- 
fore, that this fifti demands a diftinft hiftory; and fuch has been 
the curiofity of mankind, and their defire to procure them, that a 
century ago they were confidered as the greateft rarity in the 
world. At that time the art of catching whales was not known ; 
and mankind faw few, except fuch as were (branded on the coafts 
by accident. The tooth of the narwhale, therefore, was afcribed 
to a very different animal from that which really bore it. 
Among other foflil fubftances they were fometiines dug up; and 


the narwhale being utterly unknown, naturalifts foon found a 
terreftrial owner. They were thought to be the horns of uni- 
corns, an animal defcribed by Pliny as refembling an horfe, and 
with one ftraight horn darting forward from the middle of its 
forehead. Thefe teeth were, therefore, confidered as a ftrong 
teftimony in favour of that hiftorian's veracity, and were fhewii 
among the moft precious remains of antiquity. Even for fome 
time after the narwhale was known, the deceit was continued, as 
thofe who were poflbfled of a tooth fold it to great advantage. 
But at prefent they are too' well known to deceive any, and are 
only fhewn for what they really are; their curioilty increafmg 
in proportion to their weight and their fize. 


Of the Cachalot and its Varieties. 

TH IL cachalot, which has generally gone under the rianle of 
the fpermaceti whale, till Mr. Penant very properly made 
the diftin&iori, by borrowing its name from the French, has fe- 
veral teeth in the under-jaw, but none in the upper. As there 
are no lefs than feven diftinctions among whales, fo alfo there are 
the fame number of diftinftions in the tribe we are defcribing* 
The cachalot with two fins and a black back ; the cachalot with 
two fins and a whitifh back ; that with a fpout in the neck ; that 
with the fpout in the fnout ; that with three fins and fharp point- 
ed teeth ; that with three fins and fharp edged teeth ; and laftly, 
the cachalot with three fins and flatted teeth. 

This tribe is not of fuch enormous fize as the whale, properly 
fo called, not being above fixty feet long and fixteen feet high. 
In confequence of their being more {lender, they are much more 
active than the common whale ; they remain a longer time at the 
bottom ; and afford a fmaller quantity of oil. As in the com- 
mon whale the head was feen to make a third part of its bulk, fo 
in this fpecies the head is fo large as to make one half of the 

VOL. III. T t 


whole. The tongue of this animal is fmall ; but the throat is 
very formidable; and with very great eafe it could fwallow an 
ox. In the ftomach of the whale fcarce any thing is to be found ; 
but in that of the cachalot there are loads of fifh of different 
kinds ; fome whole, fome half digefted, fome fmall, and others 
er*ht or nine feet long. The cachalot is therefore as deftrutive 

O O 

among lefTer fifties, as the whale is harmlefs ; and can at one 
gulp fwallow a fnoal of fifties down its enormous gullet. Lin- 
naeus tells us, that this fifh purfues and terrifies the dolphins and 
porpoifes fo much, as often to drive them on fliore. 

But how formidable foever this fifti may be to its fellows of 
the deep, it is by far the moft valuable, and the moft fought after 
by man, as it contains two very precious drugs, fpermaceti and 
ambergrife. The ufe of thefe, either for the purpofes of lux- 
ury or medicine, is fo univerfal, that the capture of this animal, 
that alone fupplies them, turns out to very great advantage, par- 
ticularly fince the art has been found out of converting all the oi! 
of this animal, as well as the brain, into that fubitance called 

This fubftance, as it is naturally formed, is found in the head 
of the animal, and is no other than the brain. The outward fkin 
of the head being taken off", a covering of fat offers about three 
inches thick ; and under that, inftead of a bony fkull, the animal 
has only another thick fkin, that ferves for a covering and defence 
of the brain. The firft cavity, or chamber, of the brain, is filled 
with that fpermaceti which is fuppofed of the greateft purity arid 
higheft value. From this cavity there is generally drawn about 
fe ven barrels of the cleared fpermaceti, which, thrown upon water, 
coagulates like cheefe. Below this there is another chamber juft 
over the gullet, which is about feven feet high ; and this alfo con- 
tains the drug, but of lefs value. It is diftributcd in this cavity 
like honey in a hive, in fmall cells, feparated from each other by a 
membrane like the inner fkin of an egg. In proportion as the 
oily fubftance is drawn away from this part, it fills anew from 
every part of the body; and from this is generally obtained about 
nine barrels of oil. Befides this, the fpinal marrow, which is 
about as thick as a man's thigh, and reaches all along the back- 


bone to the tail, where it is not thicker than one's finger, affords 
no inconfiderable quantity. 

This fubftance, which is ufed in the compofition of many 
medicines, rather to give them confiftency than efficacy, was 
at firft fold at a very high price, both from the many virtues 
afcribed to it, and the fmall quantity that the cachalot was ca- 
pable of fupplying; at prefent, the price is greatly fallen; firft, 
becaufe its efficacy in medicine is found to be very fmall; and 
again, becaufe the whole oil of the fifh is very eafily convertible 
into fpermaceti. This is performed by boiling it with a lea of 
pot-afh, and hardening it in the manner of foap. Candles are 
now made of it, which are fubftituted for wax, and fold much 
cheaper ; fo that we need not fear having our fpermaceti adulterat- 
ed, in the manner fome medical books caution us to beware of; 
for they carefully guard us againft having our fpermaceti adul- 
terated with virgin's wax. 

. As to the ambergrife, which is fometimes found in this whale, 
it was long confidered as a fubftance found floating; on the fur- 
face of the fea; but time, that reveals the fecrets of the mercenary, 
has difcovered, that it chiefly belongs to this animal. The name, 
which has been improperly given to the former fubftance, feems 
more juftly to belong to this; for the ambergrife is found in the 
place where the feminal ve/Tels are ufually fituated in other ani- 
mals. It is found in a bag of three or four feet long, in round 
lumps, from one to twenty pounds weight, floating in a fluid 
rather thinner than oil, and of a yellowifh colour. There are 
never feen more than four at a time in one of thefe bags ; and 
that which weighed twenty pounds, and which was the largeft 
ever feen, was found fingle. Thefe balls of ambergrife are 
not found in all fifhes of this Jcind, but chiefly in the oldeft and 
ftrongeft. The ufes of this medicine, for the purpofes of luxury, 
and as a perfume, are well known; though upon fome fubje&s, 
ignorance is preferable to information. 



Of the Dolpbifty the Grampus^ and the Porpoife^ with their 


AL L thefe fifli have teeth, both in the upper and the lower 
jaw, and are much lefs than the whale. The grampus, 
which is the largeft, never exceeds twenty feet. It may alfo be 
diftinguiihed by the flatnefs of its head, which refembles a boat 
turned upfide down. The porpoife refembles the grampus in 
moft things, except the fnout, which is not above eight feet 
long; its fnout alfo more refembles that of an hog. The dolphin 
has a flrong refemblance to the porpoife, except that its fnout 
is longer and more pointed. They have all fins on the back, 
they all have heads very large, like the reft of the whale kind; 
and' refemble each other in their appetites, their manners, and 
conformations ; being equally voracious, active and roving. 

The great agility of thefe animals, prevents their being often 
taken. They feldom remain a moment above water; fometimes, 
indeed, their too eager purfuits expofe them to danger; and a 
fhoal of herrings often allures them out of their depth. In fuch 
a cafe the hungry animal continues to flounder in the fhallows, 
till knocked on the head, or till the returning tide feafonably 
comes to its relief. But all this tribe, and the dolphin in par- 
ticular, are not lefs fwift than deftrudive. No nfh could efcape 
them, but from the aukward pofition of the mouth, which is 
placed in a manner under the head : yet, even with thefe dif- 
advantages, their depredations are fo great, that they have been 
iuftly filled the plunderers of the deep. 

\Vhat could induce the ancients to a predilection in favour of 
thefe animals, particularly the dolphin, it is not eafy to account 
for. Hiftorians and philofophers feem to have contended who 
Ihould invent the greateft number of fables concerning them. 
The dolphin was celebrated in the earlieft time for its fondnefs 
to fhe human race, and was diftinguifhed by the epithets of the 


boy-loving and philanthropift. Scarce an accident could happen 
at fea but the dolphin offered himfelf to convey the unfortunate 
to fhore. The mufician, flung into the fea by pirates, the boy, 
taking an airing in the midft of the fea, and returning again in- 
to fafety, were obliged to the dolphin for its fervices. It is not 
eafy, I fay, to affign a caufe vyhy the ancients ftiould thus have 
invented fo many fables in their favour. The figure of thefe ani- 
mals is far from prejudicing us in their interefts ; their extreme 
rapacity tends frill lefs to endear them : I know nothing that 
can reconcile them to man and excite his prejudices, except that 
when taken they fometimes have a plaintive moan, with which 
they continue to exprefs their pain till they expire. This, at 
firft, might have excited human pity ; and that might have pro- 
duced affection. At prefent, thefe fifties are regarded even by the 
vulgar in a very different light : their appearance is far from be- 
ing efteemed a favourable omen by the feamen; and from their 
boundings, fprings, and frolics in the water, experience has 
taught the mariners to prepare for a florin. 

But it is not to one circumftance only that the ancients have 
confined their fabulous reports concerning thefe animals ; as from 
their leaps out of their element, they alTume a temporary curva- 
ture, which is by no means their natural figure in the water, the 
old painters and fculptors have univerfally drawn them wrong. 
A dolphin is fcarce ever exhibited by the ancients in a ftraight 
fhape, but curved, in the pofition which they fometimes appear 
in when exerting their force ; and the poets too have adopted the 
general error. Even Pliny, the beft naturalift, has afTerted, 
that they inftantly die when taken out of the water; but Ron- 
delet on the contrary allures us, that hz has feen a dolphin carried 
alive from Montpelier to Lyons. 

The moderns have more jufl notions of thefe animals; and 
have got[over the many fables which every day's experience con- 
tradicts. Indeed, their numbers are fo great, and, though fhy, 
they are fo often taken, that fuch peculiarities, if they were pof- 
fefTed of any, would have been long fince afcertained. They are 
found, the porpoife efpecially, in fuch vaft numbers, in all parts 
qf the fea that furrounds this kingdom, that they are fometimes 


noxious to feamen, when they fail in fmall veflels. In fome 
place? they almoft darken the water, as they rife to take breath, 
and particularly before bad v/eather, are much agitated, fwim- 
ming againfr. the wind, and tumbling about with unufual vio- 

Whether thefe motions be the gambols of pleafure, or the 
agitations of terror, is not well known. It is moft probable 
that they dread thofe feafons of turbulence, when the lefTer fifties 
fhrink to the bottom, and their prey no longer offers fufficient 
abundance. In times of fairer v/eather, they are feen herding 
together, and purfuing fhoals of various filh with great impe- 
tuofity. Their method of hunting their game, if it may be fo 
c-i'sd, is to follow in a pack, and thus to give each other mutual 
finance. At that feafon, when the mackarel, the herring, 
the falmon, and other fiih of paflage, begin to make their ap- 
pearance, the cetaceous tribes are feen fierce in the purfuit; 
urging their prey from one creek or bay to another, deterring 
them from the {hallows, driving them towards each other's 
arnbufh, and ufing a greater variety of arts than hounds are 
leer, to exert in purfuir.g the hare. However, the porpoife not 
only feeks for prey near the furface, but often defcends to 
the bottom in fearch of fand-eels and &a- worms, which it roots 
out of the fand with its nofe, in the manner hogs harrow up the 
fields for food. For this purpofe, the nofe projects a little, is 
fhorter and ftronger than that of the dolphin ; and the neck is 
furnifhed with very ftrong mufclcs, which enables it die readier 
to turn up the fand. 

But it fometimes happens, that the impetuofity or the hunger 
of thefe animals, in their ufual purfuits, urges them beyond the 
limits of fiifety. The fifhermen, who extend their long nets 
for pilchards, on the coafts of Cornwall, have fometimes an un- 
welcome capture in one of thefe. Their feeble nets, which are 
calculated only for taking fmaller prey, fuller an univerfal lace- 
ration, from the efforts of this ftrpng animal to efcape; and if 
it be riot knocked on the head, before it has had time to flounder, 
the nets are destroyed, and the Emery interrupted. There is 
nothing, therefore, they fo much dread, as the entangling a po> 


poife ; and they do every thing to intimidate the animal from 

Indeed, thefe creatures are fo violent in the purfuit of their 
prey, that they fometimes follow a ihcal of fmall fifties up a frefh 
water river, from whence they find no finall difficulty to return. 
We have often feen them taken in the Thames at London, 
both above the bridges and below them. 'It is curious enough 
to obferve with what activity they avoid their purfaers, and 
what little time they require to fetch breath above the water. 
The manner of killing them is, for four or five boats to fpread 
over the part of the river, in which they are feen, and with fire- 
arms to {hoot at them the inftant they rife above the water. The 
fifh, being thus for fome time kept in agitation, requires to come 
to the furface at quicker intervals, and thus affords the markfmen 
more frequent opportunities. 

When the porpoife is taken, it becomes no inconfiderable cap- 
ture, as it yields a very large quantity of oil ; and the lean of 
fome, particularly if the animal be young, is faid to be as well 
tafted as veal. The inhabitants of Norway prepare from the 
eggs found in the body of this fifh, a kind of caviar, which is faid to 
be very delicate fauce, or good when even eaten with bread. 
There is a fifhery for porpoife along the weftern ides of Scotland 
during the fummer feafon, when they abound on that fiiore ; 
and this branch of induftry turns to good advantage. 

As for the reft, we are told, that thefe animals go with young 
ten months; that, like the whale, they feldom bring forth above 
one at a time, and that in the midft of fummer; that they live 
to a confiderablc ge ; though fome fay not above twenty-five 
or thirty years; and they flecp with the fnout above water. 
They feem to pofiefs, in a degree proportioned to their bulk, ths. 
manners of whales : and the hiftory of one fpecies of cetaceous 
animals, will, in a great meafure, ferve for all the reft. 



C H A P, I. 

Of Cartilaginous Fijhes in general. 

WE have feen that fifties of the cetaceous kind bear a ftrong 
refemblance to quadrupeds in their conformation ; thofe 
of the cartilaginous kinds are one remove feparated from them ; 
they form the fhade that completes the imperceptible gradations 
of nature. 

The firft great diftinc~t.ion they exhibit, is, in having carti-^ 
lages or griftlcs, inftead of bones. The cetaceous tribes have 
their bones entirely rcfembling thofe of quadrupeds, thick, white, 
and filled with marrow: thofe of the fpinous kind, on the con- 
trary, have fmall {lender bones, with points refembling thorns, 
and generally folid throughout. Fifties of the cartilaginous 
kinds have their bones always foft and yielding: and age, that 
hardens the bones of other animals, rather contributes ftill more 
to foften theirs. The fize of all fifties increafes with age; but 
from the pliancy of the bones in this tribe, they feem to have no 
bounds placed to their dimenfions : and it is fuppofed that they 
grow larger every day till they die. 

They have other differences, more obvioufly difcernible. We 
have obfcrved, that the cetaceous tribes had lungs like quadru- 
peds, an heart with its partition in the fame manner, and an appa- 
ratus for hearing : on the other hand we. mentioned, that the fpi- 
nous kinds had no organs of hearing, no lungs to breathe through, 
and no partition in the heart ; but that their cold red blood was 
circulated by the means of the impulfe made upon their gills by 
the water. Cartilaginous fifties unite both thefe fyftems in their 
conformation: like the cetaceous tribes, they have organs of 
hearing, and lungs ; like the fpinous kinds, they have gills, and 


&n heart without a partition. Thus poflcfled of a twofold power 
of breathing, fometimes by means of their lungs, fomctimes by 
that of their gills, they feem to unite all the advantages of which 
their fituation is capable, drawing from both elements, every 
aid to their neceffities or their enjoyments. 

This double capacity of breathing in thefe animals, is one of" 
the mofr. remarkable features in the hiftory of nature. The 
apertures by which they breathe, are fomewhere placed about the 
head; either beneath, as in flat fifh; on the fides, as in {harks j 
or on the top of the head, as in pipe fifh. To thefe apertures are 
the gills affixed, but without any bone to open and fhut them, 
p.s in fpinous fifhes ; from which, by this mark, they may be ea- 
iily diflinguifhed, though otherwife very much alike in appear- 
ance. From thefe are bending cylindrical dufts, that run to the 
lungs, and are fuppofed to convey the air, that gives the organs 
their proper play. The heart, however, has but one valve; fo 
that their blood wants that double circulation which obtains in 
the cetaceous kinds ; and the lungs feem to me rather as an in- 
ternal afliftant to the gills, than fitted for fupplying the fame of- 
fices as in quadrupeds, for they want the pulmonary vein and 

From this ftru&ure, however, the animal is enabled to live a 
longer time out of v^ater than thofe whofe gills are more fimple. 
The cartilaginous fhark, and ray, live fame hours after they are 
taken; while the fpinous herring and mackarel expire a few mi- 
nutes after they are brought on iliore. From hence this tribe 
feems pofTefTed of powers that other fifties are wholly deprived of; 
they can remain continually under water > without ever taking 
breath ; while they can venture their heads above the deep, and 
continue for hours out of their native element. 

We obferved, in a former chapter, that fpinous fifties have not, 
or at leaft appear riot to have, externally any infiruments of ge- 
neration. It is very different with thofe of the cartilaginous 
kind, for the male always has thefe instruments double. The 
fifh of this tribe are not unfrequently feen to copulate ; and their 
manner is belly to belly, fuch as may naturally be expected from 

VOL. III. U u 


animals whofe parts of generation are placed forward. They in 
general choofe colder feafons and fituations than other fifh, for 
propagating their kind ; and many of them bring forth in the midft 
of winter. 

The fame duplicity of character which marks their general 
conformation, obtains alfo with regard to their manner of bring- 
ing forth. Some bring forth their young alive; and fome bring 
forth eggs, which are afterwards brought to maturity. In all, 
however, the manner of geftation is nearly the fame; for upon 
difle&ion, it is ever found, that the young, while in the body, 
continue in the egg till a very little time before they are ex- 
cluded ; thefe eggs they may properly be faid to hatch within 
their body ; and as foon as their young quit the fliell, they begin 
to quit the womb alfo. Unlike to quadrupeds, or the cetaceous 
tribes, that quit the egg ftate a few days after their firft concep- 
tion, and continue in the womb feveral months after, thefe con- 
tinue in the body of the female, in their egg ftate, for weeks to- 
gether ; and the eggs are found linked together by a membrane, 
from which, when the foetus gets free, it continues but a very 
fhort time till it delivers itfelf from its confinement in the womb. 
The eggs themfelves confift of a white and a yolk, and have a 
fubftance, inftead of (hell, that may be aptly compared to foftened 
horn. Thefe, as I obferved, are fometimes hatched in the womb, 
as in the fhark and ray kinds ; and they are fometimes excluded, 
as in the fturgeon, before the animal comes to its time of difen- 
gaging. Thus we fee that there feems very little difference 
between the viviparous and the oviparous kinds, in this clafs of 
fifties; the one hatch their eggs in the womb, and the young 
continue no long time there ; the others exclude their eggs before 
hatching, and leave it to time and accident to bring their young 
to maturity 

Such are the peculiar marks of the cartilaginous clafs of fifties, 
of which there are many kinds. To give a diftincl: defcription 
of every fifh is as little my intention, as perhaps it is the wifh 
of the reader; but the peculiarities of each kind deferve notice, 
and the moil finking of thefe it would be unpardonable to omit. 


Cartilaginous fifh may be divided firfl into thofe of the fhark 
kind, with a body growing lefs towards the tail, a rough Ikin, 
with the mouth placed far beneath the end of the nofe, five aper- 
tures on the fides of the neck for breathing, and the upper part 
of the tail longer than the lower. This clafs chiefly compre- 
hends the great white fhark, the balance fifh, the found fifh, 
the monk fifh, the dog fifh, the balking fhark, the zygsena, 
the tope, the cat fifh, the blue fhark, the fea fox, the fmooth 
found fifh, and the porbeagle. Thefe are all of the fame nature, 
and differ more in fize, than in figure or conformation. 

The next divifion is that of flat fifh ; and thefe their broad, 
flat, thin fhape, is fufficiently capable of difLingui/hing from all 
others of this kind. They maybe eafily diftinguifhed alfo from 
fpinous flat fifh, by the holes through which they breathe, which 
are uncovered by a bone ; and which, in this kind, are five on 
each fide. In this tribe we may place the torpedo, the fkate, the 
fharp-nofed ray, the rough ray, the thornback, and the fire flare. 

The third divifion is that of the flender fnake-fliaped kind : 
fuch as the lamprey, the pride, and the pipe fifh. 

The fourth divifion is of the fturgeon and its variety, the ifing- 
glafs fifh. 

The laft divifion may comprife fifh of different figures and 
natures, that do not rank under the former divifions. Thefe are 
the fun fifh, the tetrodon, the lump fifh, the fea fnail, the chi- 
maera, and the fiming frog. Each of thefe has fomewhat pecu- 
liar in its powers or its form, that deferves to be remarked. The 
defcription of the figures of thefe at leaft may compenfate for our 
general ignorance of the reft of their hiftory. 



Of Cartilaginous Fftes cf the Shark Kind. 

OF all the inhabitants of the deep, thole of the (hark kind 
are the fierceft and the moft voracious. The fmalleft of 
this tribe is not lefs dreaded by greater fifli, than many that to 
appearance feem more powerful ; nor do any of them feem fearful 
of attacking animals far above their fize ; but the great white 
{hark, which is the largeft of the kind, joins to the moft amaz- 
ing rapidity, the ftrongeft appetites for mifchief: as he approaches 
nearly in fize to the whale, he far furpafTes him in ftrength and 
celerity, in the formidable arrangement of his teeth, and his infa- 
liable defire of plunder. 

The white fhark is fometimes feen to rank even among 
whales for magnitude; and is found from twenty to thirty feet 
long. Some aflert that they have feen them of four thoufand 
pounds weight; and we are told particularly of one, that had a 
human corpfe in his belly. The head is large, and fomewhat 
flatted; the fnout long, and the eyes large. The mouth is enor- 
moufly wide; as is the throat, and capable of f wallowing a man 
with great eafe. But its furniture of teeth is ftiil more terrible : 
of thefe there are fix rows, extremely hard, fharp-pointed, and 
of a wedge-like figure. It is afferted that there are feventy- 
tv/o in each jaw, which make one hundred and forty-four in the 
whole; yet others think that their number is uncertain; and 
that, in proportion as the animal grows older, thefe terrible in- 
ftruments of deftrucTion are found to increafe. With thefe the 
jaws both above and below appear planted all over; but the ani- 
mal has a power of erecting or depreffing them at pleafure. 
When the fhark is at reft, they lie quite fiat in his mouth ; but 
when he prepares to feize his prey, he erects all this dreadful 
apparatus, by the help of a fet of mufcles that join them to the 
jaw ; and the animal he feizes, dies pierced with an hundred 
wounds in a moment. 


Nor is this fifh Icfs terrible to behold as to the reft of his 
form: his fins are larger in proportion; he is furnifhed with 
great goggle eyes, which he turns with eafe on every fide, fo as 
to fee his prey behind him as well as before; and his whole af- 
pe& is marked with a character of malignity: his fkin alfo is 
rough, hard, and prickly : being that fubftance which covers in- 
ftrument cafes, called fhagreen. 

As the (hark is thus formidable in his appearance, fo is he alfo 
dreadful, from his courage and activity. No fifh can fwim fo 
faft as he ; none fo conftantly employed in fwimming ; he out- 
ftrips the fwifteft (hips, plays round them, darts out before them, 
returns, feems to gaze at the paflengers, and all the while does 
not feem to exhibit the fmalleft fymptom of an effort to proceed. 
Such amazing powers, with fuch great appetites for deftru&ion, 
would quickly unpeople even the ocean; but providentially the 
fhark's upper jaw projects fa far above the lower, that he is oblig- 
ed to turn on one fide (not on his back, as is generally fuppofed) 
to feize his prey. As this takes fome fmall time to perform, 
the animal purfued feizes that opportunity to make its efcape. 

Still, however, the depredations he commits are frequent and 
formidable. The fhark is the dread of failors in all hot climates ; 
where, like a greedy robber, he attends the mips, in expectation 
of what may drop over board. A man who unfortunately falls 
into the fea at fuch a time, is fure to perim without mercey. 
A failor who was bathing in the Mediterranean, near Antibes, 
in the year 1744, while he was fwimming about fifty yards 
from the ihip, perceived a monflrous fifli making towards him, 
and furveying him on every fide, as full are often feen to look 
round a bait. The poor man, ftruck with terror at its approach, 
cried out to his companions in the veflel to take him on board. 
They accordingly threw him a rope with the utmoft expedition, 
and were drawing him up by the fhip's fide, when the fhark 
darted after him from the deep, and fnapped off his leg. 

Mr. Penant tells us, that the mafter of a Guinea-fhip, find- 
ing a rage for fuicide prevail among his (laves, from a notion th~ 
unhappy creatures had, that after death they ihould be reftored 


again to tbeir families, friends and country; to convince them at 
leaft that feme difgrace fhould attend them here, he ordered one of 
their dead bodies to be tied by the heels to a rope, and fo let down 
into the fea ; and though it was drawn up again with great fwift- 
nefs, yet, in that fhort fpace, the {harks had bit off all but the 
feet. Whether this ftory be prior to an accident of the fame 
kind, which happened at Belfaft, in Ireland, about twenty years 
ago, I will not take upon me to determine; but certain it is, 
there are fome circumflances alike in both, though more tenible 
in that I am going to relate. A Guinea captain was, by ftrefs 
of weather, driven into the harbour of Belfaft, with a lading of 
very fickly Haves, who, in the manner above mentioned, took 
every opportunity to throw themfelves overboard when brought 
up upon deck, as is ufual, for the benefit of the frefh air. The 
captain perceiving, among others, a woman flave attempting to 
drown herfelf, pitched upon her as a proper example to the reft : 
as he fuppofed that they did not know the terrors attending death, 
he ordered the woman to be tied with a rope under the arm-pits, 
and fo let her down into the water. When the poor creature was 
thus plunged in, and about half way down, me was heard to give 
a terrible fhriek, which at firft was afcribed to her fears of drown- 
ing ; but ibon after the water appearing red all round her, me 
was drawn up, and it was found that a mark, which had followed 
the fhip, had bit her off from the middle. 

Such is the frightful rapacity of this animal ; nothing that has 
life is rejected. But it feems to have a peculiar enmity to man: 
when once it has tafted human flefh, it never defifts from haunt- 
ing thofe places where it expects the return of its prey. It is 
even afferted, that along the coafts of Africa, where thefe ani- 
mals are found in great abundance, numbers of the Negroes, who 
are obliged to frequent the waters, are feized and devoured by 
them every year. The people of thefe coafts are firmly of opi- 
nion, that the mark loves the black man's flefli in preference to 
the white ; and that when men of different colours are in the wa.- 
ter together, it always makes choice of the former. 

However this be, men of all colours are equally afraid of this 
animal, and have contrived different methods to deftroy him. la 


general, they derive their fuccefs from the (hark's own rapacity. 
The ufual method of our failors to take him, is by baiting a 
great hook with a piece of beef or pork, which is thrown out in- 
to the lea by a ftrong cord, ftrengthened near the hook with an 
iron chain. Without this precaution, the {hark would quickly 
bite the cord in two, and thus fet himfelf free. It is no unplea- 
fa:it amufement to obferve this voracious animal coming up to 
furvey the bait, particularly when not preffed by hunger. Hs 
approaches it, examines it, fwims round it, feems for a while to 
neglect it, perhaps apprehenfive of the cord and the chain: he 
quits it for a little; but his appetite preffing, he returns again; 
appears preparing to devour it, but quits it once more. When 
the failors have fufficiently diverted theinfelves with his different 
evolutions, they then make a pretence, by drawing the rope, as 
if intending to take the bait away; it is then that the glutton's 
hunger excites him ; he darts at the bait, and fwallows it, hook 
and all. Sometimes, however, he does not fo entirely gorge the 
whole, but that he once more gets free ; yet even then, though 
wounded and bleeding with the hook, he will again purfue the 
bait until he is taken. When he finds the hook lodged in his 
maw, his utmoft efforts are then excited, but in vain, to get free; 
he tries with his teeth to cut the chain; he pulls with all his 
force to break the line ; he almoft feems to turn his ftomach in- 
fide out, to difgorge the hook : in this manner he continues his 
formidable, though fruitlefs efforts ; till, quite fpent, he fuffers 
his head to be drawn above water, and the failors confining his 
tail by a nooze, in this manner draw him on fhipboard, and dif- 
patch him. This is done by beating him on the head till he dies ; 
yet even that is not effe6red without difficulty and danger; the 
enormous creature, terrible even in the agonies of death, ftill 
ftruggles with his deftroyers ; nor is there an animal in the world 
that is harder to be killed. Even when cut in pieces, the muf- 
cles ftill preferve their motion, and vibrate for fome minutes after 
being feparated from the body. Another method of taking him, 
is by ftriking a barbed inflrument, called a fifgig, into his body, 
as he brufhes along by the fide of the fhip. As foon as he is 
taken up, to prevent his flouncing, they cut. off the tail with an 
axe, with the utmoft expedition. 


This is the manner in which Europeans deitroy the (hark 3 
but fome of the Negroes, along the African coait, take a bolder 
and more dungcrous method to combat their terrible enemy. 
Armed with nothing more than a knife, the Negro plunges in- 
to the water, where he fees the marl: watching for his prey, and 
boldly fv/irns forward to meet him: though the o- re at animal 
does not come to provoke the combat, he does not avoid it, and 
fufFers the man to approach him ; but juft as he turns upon his 
fide to feize the aggrefTor, the Negro watches the opportunity, 
plunges his knife into the hfh's belly, and purfues his blows 
with fuch fuccefs, that he lays the ravenous tyrant dead at the 
bottom : he foon, however, returns, fixes the fifh's head in a 
nooze, and drags him to more, where he makes a noble feaft, 
for the j villages. 

Nor is man alone the only enemy this fiih has to fear : the 
remora, or fucking fifh, is probably a frill greater, and follows 
the mark every where. This fifh has got a power of adhering 
to \vhatever it {ricks againft, in the fame manner as a cupping - 
glafs flicks to the human body. It is by fuch an apparatus, 
that this animal fticks to the {hark, and drains away its moif- 
ture. The feamen, however, are of opinion, that it is feen to 
attend on the mark for more friendly purpofec, to point him to 
his prey, and to apprize him of his danger. For this reafon, it 
has been called the mark's pilot. 

The mark fo much refemblcs the whale in fize, that fome 
have injudicioufiy ranked it in the clafs of cetaceous fimes ; 
but its real rank is in the place here affigned it, among thofe of 
the cartilaginous kind. It breathes with gills and lungs, its 
bones are griflly, and it brings forth feveral living young; 
Bellonius afTures us, that he fav/ a fernde fhark produce eleven 
live young ones at a time. But I will not take upon me to 
vouch for the veracity of Rondeletius, who, when talking of 
the blue mark, fays, that the female will permit her fmall brood, 
when in danger, to fwim down her mouth, and take fhelter in 
her belly. Mr. Penant, indeed, feems to give credit to the ftory, 
and thinks, that this fifli, like the oppofTum, may have a place 
fitted by nature, for the reception of her young. To his opinion. 



much deference is due, and is fufficient, at leaft, to make us fuf- 
pend our affent; for nothing is fo contemptible as that affecta- 
tion of wifdom which fome difplay, by univerfal incredulity. 

Upon the whole, a fhark, when living, is a very formidable 
animal; and, when dead, is of very little value. The flefh is 
hardly digeftible by any but the Negroes, who are fond of it to dif- 
traction ; the liver affords three or four quarts of oil ; fome ima- 
ginary virtues have been afcribed to the brain ; and its fkin is, 
by great labour, polifhed into that fubftance called fhagreen. 
Mr. Penant is of opinion, that the female is larger than the male 
in all this tribe ; which would, if confirmed by experience, make 
a finking agreement between them and birds of prey. It v/ere 
to be wifhed that fucceeding hiftorians would examine into this 
obfervation, which is offered only as a conjecture. 


Of Cartilaginous Flat-fijb of the Ray Kind. 

TH E fame rapacity which impels the fhark along the fur- 
face of the water, actuates the flat-fifh at the bottom. 
Lefs active and lefs formidable, they creep in fecurity along the 
bottom, feize every thing that comes in their way; neither the 
hardeft fhells nor the.fnarpeft fpines give protection to the ani- 
mals that bear them ; their infatiable hunger is fuch, that they 
devour all, and the force of their ftomach is fo great, that it ea- 
fily digefts them.. 

The whole of this kind refemble each other very ftrongly in 
their figure ; nor is it eafy without experience to diftinguifh one 
from another. The ftranger to this dangerous tribe may ima- 
gine he is only handling a fkate, when he is inftantly flruck 
numb by the torpedo; he may fuppofe he has caught a thora- 
back till he is flung by the fireflare. It will be proper, there- 
fore, after defcribing the general figure of thefe animals, to mark 
their differences. 

VOL. III. X x 



All fifh of the ray kind are broad, cartilaginous, fwimming 
flat on the water, and having fpines on different parts of their 
body, or at the tail. They all have their eyes and mouth placed 
quite under the body, with apertures for breathing either about 
or near them. They all have teeth, or a rough bone, which an- 
fwers the fame purpofe. Their bowels are very wide towards 
the mouth, and go on dimini'fhing to the tail. The tail is very 
differently fhaped from that of other fifties ; and at firft fight 
more refembling that of a quadruped, being narrow, and ending 
either in a bunch or a point. But what they are chiefly difrin- 
guifhed by, is, their fpines or prickles, which the different fpecies 
have on different parts of their body. Some are armed with 
fpines both above and below ; others have them on the upper 
part only; fome have their fpines at the tail; fome have three 
rows of them, and others but one. Thefe prickles in fome are 
comparatively foft and feeble ; thofe of others, ftrong and pierc- 
ing. The fmalleft of thefe fpines are ufually inclining towards 
the tail ; the larger towards the head. 

It is by the fpines that thefe animals are diftinguifhed from 
each other. The fkate has the middle of the back rough, and a 
jingle row of fpines on the tail. The fharp-nofed ray has ten 
fpines that are fituated towards the middle of the back. The 
rough ray has its fpines fpread indifcriminately over the whole 
back. The thornback has its fpines difpofed in three rows upon 
the back. The fireflare has but one fpine, but that indeed a 
terrible one. This dangerous weapon is placed on the tail, about 
four inches from the body, and is not lefs than five inches long. 
It is of a flinty hardnefs, the fides thin, marp-pointed, and clofely 
and fharply bearded the whole way. The laft of this tribe that 
I lhall mention is the torpedo ; and this animal has no fpines 
that can wound; but in the place of them it is poiTeiTed of one 
of the moft potent and extraordinary faculties in nature. 

Such are the principal differences that may enable us todiflin- 
^uifli animals, fome of which are of very great ufe to mankind, 
from others that are terrible and noxious. With refpecl: to their 
yfes indeed, as we {hall foon fee, they differ much : but the fimi- 
litude among them, as to their nature, appetites and conforma- 


lion, is perfect and entire. They are all as voracious as they are 
plenty ; and as dangerous to a ftranger, as ufeful to him who 
can diftinguifh their differences. 

Of all the larger fifh of the fea, thefe are the moft numerous ; 
and they owe their numbers to their fize. Except the white 
fhark and cachalot alone, there is no other fifh that has a fwal- 
low large enough to take them in; and their fpines make them 
a {till more dangerous morfel. Yet the fize of fome is fuch, 
that even the fhark himfelf is unable to devour them: we have 
feen fome of them in England weigh above two hundred pounds ; 
but that is nothing to their enormous bulk in other parts of the 
world. Labat tells us of a prodigious ray that was fpeared by 
the Negroes at Guadaloupe, which was thirteen feet eight inches 
broad, and above ten feet from the fnout to the infertion of the 
tail. The tail itfelf was in proportion, for it was no lefs than 
fifteen feet long ; twenty inches broad at its infertion, and taper- 
ing to a point. The body was two feet in depth ; the Ikin as 
thick as leather, and marked with fpots ; which fpots, in all of 
this kind, are only glands, that fupply a mucus to lubricate and 
foften the fkin. This enormous fifh was utterly unfit to be 
eaten by the Europeans; but the Negroes chofe out fome of the 
niceft bits, and carefully falted them up as a moft favourite 
pro v if! on. 

Yet, large as this may feem, it is very probable that we have 
feen only the fmalleft of the kind ; as they generally keep at the 
bottom, the largeft of the kind are feldom feen ; and, as they 
may probably have been growing for ages, the extent of their 
magnitude is unknown. It is generally fuppofed, however, that 
they are the largeft inhabitants of the deep : and, were we to 
credit the Norway bifhop, there are fome above a mile over. 
But to fuppofe an animal of fuch magnitude is abfurd; yet the 
overftretching the fuppofition does not deftroy the probability 
that animals of this tribe grow to an enormous fize. 

The ray generally choofes for its retreat fuch parts of the fea 
as have a black muddy bottom ; the large ones keep at greater 
depths ; but the fmaller approach the fhores, and feed upon what- 


ever living animals they can furprize, or whatever putrid fub- 
ftances they meet with. As they are ravenous, they eafily take 
the bait, yet will not touch it, if it be taken up and kept a day 
or two out of water. Almoft all fifh appear much more de- 
licate with regard to a baited hook than their ordinary food. 
They appear by their manne^jftD perceive the line and to dread 
it, but the impulfe of their hunger is too great for their caution; 
and, even though they perceive the danger, if thoroughly hun- 
gry, they devour the deftru&iori. 

Thefe fifh generate in March and April, at which time only 
they are feen fwimming near the furface of the water, feveral 
of the males purfuing one female. They adhere fo faft toge- 
gether in coition, that the fifhermen frequently draw up both 
together, though only one has been hooked. The females are 
prolific to an extreme degree; there having been no lefs than 
three hundred eggs taken out of the body of a fmgle ray. Thefe 
eggs are covered with a tough horny fubftance, which they 
acquire in the womb; for before they defcend into that, they 
are attached to the ovary pretty much in the fame manner as in 
the body of a pullet. From this ovary, or egg-bag, as it is 
vulgarly called, the fifh's eggs drop one by one into the womb, 
and there receive a fhell by the concretion of the fluids of that 
organ. When come to the proper maturity, they are excluded, 
but never above one or two at a time, and often at intervals 
of three or four hours. Thefe eggs, or purfes, as the fifhermen 
call them, are ufually caft, about the beginning of May, and 
they continue cafting during the whole fummer. In October, 
when their breeding ceafes, they are exceedingly poor and thin ; 
but in November they begin to improve, and grow gradually 
better till May, when they are in the higheft perfection. 

It is chiefly during the winter feafon that our fifhermen take 
them ; but the Dutch, who*are indefatigable, begin their opera- 
tions earlier, and fifh with better fuccefs than we. The method 
pra&ifed by the fifhermen of Scarborough is thought to be the 
beft among the Englifh ; and, as Mr. Penant has given a very 
fuccinct account of it, I will take leave to prefent it to the reader 


& When they go out to fifh, each perfon is provided with three 
lines : each man's lines are fairly coiled upon a flat oblong piece 
of wicker work ; the hooks being baited and placed very regu- 
larly in the centre of the coil. Each line is furnifhed with two 
hundred and eighty hooks, at the diftance of fix feet two inches 
from each other. The hooks are faftened to lines of twilled horfe- 
hair, twenty-feven inches in length. 

" When fifhing, there are always three men in each coble ; 
and confequently nine of thefe lines are faftened together and ufed 
as one line, extending in length near three miles, and furnifhed 
with above two thoufand five hundred hooks. An anchor and a 
buoy are fixed at the firft end of the line, and one more at each 
end of each man's lines: in all, four anchors, and four buoys, 
made of leather or cork. The line is always laid acrofs the cur- 
rent. The tides of flood and ebb continue an equal time upon 
our coaft; and, when undifturbed by winds, run each way about 
fix hours. They are fo rapid that the fifhermen can only fhoot 
and haul their lines at the turn of the tide ; and therefore the 
lines always remain upon the ground about fix hours. The 
fame rapidity of tide prevents their ufing hand lines ; and there- 
fore two of the people commonly wrap themfelves in the fail 
and fleep, while the other keeps a ftricl: look-out, for fear of being 
run down by mips, and to obferve the weather : for ftorms often 
rife fo fuddenly, that it is fometimes with extreme difficulty they 
efcape the more, though they leave lines behind them. 

" The coble is twenty feet fix inches long, and five feet ex- 
treme breadth. It is about one ton burden, rowed with three 
pair of oars, and admirably conftrucred for the purpofe of en- 
countering a mountainous fea. They hoift fail when the wind 

" The five-men-boat is forty feet long, fifteen broad, and 
twenty-five tons burden. It is fo called, though navigated by 
fix men and a boy ; becaufe one of the men is hired to cook, and 
does not (hare in the profits of the other five. All our able 
fifhermen go in thefe boats to the herring- fifhery at Yarmouth, 
the latter end of September, and return about the middle of 


November. The boats are then laid up until the beginning 
of Lent, at which time they go off in them to the edge of the 
Dogger, and other places, to fifh for turbot, cod, ling, fkate, 
&c. They always take two cobles on board, and when they 
come upon their ground, anchor the boat, throw out the cobles, 
and fifh in the fame manner as thofe do who go from the fhore 
in a coble ; with this difference only, that here each man is pro- 
vided with double the quantity of lines, and, inftead of waiting 
the return of the tide in the coble, returns to the boat and bait 
his other lines; thus bawling one fet, and fliooting another, 
every turn of tide. They commonly run into the harbour twice 
a week, to deliver their fifh. The five-men-boat is decked at 
each end, but open in the middle, and has two long fails. 

" The beft bait for all kinds of fifh, is frefli herring, cut in 
pieces of a proper fize ; and, notwithstanding what has been 
faid to the contrary, they are taken there at any time in the win- 
ter, and all the fpring, whenever the fifnermen put down their 
nets for that purpofe: the five- men-boats always take fome nets 
for that end. Next to herrings are the leiler lampreys, which 
come all winter by land-carriage from Tadcailer. The next 
baits in efteern, are fmall haddocks, cut in pieces, fand- worms, 
mufcles and limpits ; and laftly, when none of thefe can be found, 
they ufe bullock's liver. The hooks ufed there, are much final - 
ler than thofe employed at Iceland and Newfoundland. Experi- 
ence has {hewn, that the larger fifh will take a living fmall one 
upon the hook, fooner than any bait that can be put on ; there- 
fore, they ufe fuch as the fifh can fwallow. The hooks are two 
inches and a half long in the fhank ; and near an inch wide be- 
tween the (hank and the point. The line is made of fmall cord- 
ing, and is always tanned before it is ufed. All rays and turbots 
are extremely delicate in their choice of baits : if a piece of her- 
ring or haddock has been twelve hours out of the fea, and then 
ufed as a bait, they will not touch it." 

Such is the manner of fifhing for thofe fifh, that ufually keep 
near the bottom on the coafts of England ; and Duhamel ob- 
ferves, that the beft weather for fucceeding, is a half calm, when 
the waves are juft curled with a filent breeze. 


But this extent of line, which runs, as we have feen, three 
miles along the bottom, is nothing to what the Italians throw 
out in the Mediterranean. Their fifhing is carried on in a tar- 
tan, which is a veflel much larger than ours; and they bait a 
line of no lefs than twenty miles long, with above ten or twelve 
thoufand hooks. This line is called the parafma ; and the full- 
ing the pielago. This line is not regularly drawn every fix hours, 
as with us, but remains for fome time in the fea; and it requires 
the fpace of twenty-four hours to take it up. By this apparatus 
they take rays, {harks, and other fifh ; fome of which are above 
a thoufand pounds weight. When they have caught any of this 
magnitude, they flrike them through with an harpoon, bring them 
on board, and kill them as fail as they can. 

This method of catching fifh is obvioufly fatiguing and dan- 
gerous ; but the value of the capture generally repays the pain. 
The fkate and the thornback are very good food ; and their fi2e, 
which is from ten pounds to two hundred weight, very well re- 
wards the trouble of fiming for them. But it fometimes happens 
that the lines are vifited by very unwelcome intruders ; by the 
rough ray, the fireflare, or the torpedo. To all thefe the fifliermen 
have the moft mortal antipathy; and, when difcovered, fhudder 
at the fight: however, they are not always fo much upon their 
guard, but that they fometimes feel the different refentments of 
this angry tribe ; and, inftead of a prize, find they have caught a 
vindictive enemy. When fuch is the cafe, they take care to throw 
them back into the fea with the greatefl expedition. 

The rough ray inflicts but flight wounds with the prickles 
with which its whole body is furnifhed. To the ignorant it feems 
harmlef?, and a man would at firft fight venture to take it in his 
hand, without any apprehenfion ; but he foon finds, that there 
is not a fingle part of its body that is not armed with fpines; 
and that there is no way of feizing the animal, but by the little 
fin at the end of the tail. 

But this animal is harmlefs, when compared to the fireflare,, 
which feems to be the dread of even the boldcft arid moil experi- 
enced fiihermen. The Weapon with which Nature has armed 
this animal, which grows from the tail, and which we defcribcd 


as barbed and five inches long, hath been an inflrument oPterror 
to the ancient fifriermen, as well as the modern: and they have 
delivered many tremendous fables of its aflonifhing effects. Pli- 
ny, ^Elian, and Oppian, have fupplied it with a venom that af- 
fets even the inanimate creation : trees that are flruck by it, in- 
flantly lofe their verdure; and rocks themfelves are incapable of 
refilling the potent poifon. The enchantrefs, Circe, armed her 
fon with a fpear headed with the fpine of the trygon, as the mofl 
irrefiflible weapon file could furnifh him with j a weapon that 
foon after was to be the death of his own father. 

" That fpears and darts," fays mr. Penant, " might in very 
early times have been headed with this bone inflead of iron, we 
have no doubt. The Americans head their arrows with the bones 
of fifties to this day ; and from their hardnefs and fharpnefs, 
they are no contemptible weapons. But that this fpine is pof- 
fefled of thofe venomous qualities afcribed to it, we have every 
reafon to doubt ; though fome men of high reputation, and the 
whole body of fifhcrmen, contend for its venomous effects. It 
is, in fact, a weapon of offence belonging to this animal, and 
capable, from its barbs, of inflicting a very terrible wound, at- 
tended with dangerous fymptoms ; but it cannot be pofTefTed 
of any poifon, as the fpine hath no (heath to preferve the fup- 
pofed venom on its furface; and the animal has no gland that 
feparates the noxious fluid : befides, all thofe animals, that are 
furnimed with envenomed fangs or flings, feem to have them 
flrongly connected with their fafety and exiflence : they never 
part with them ; there is an apparatus of poifon prepared in the 
body to accompany their exertions ; and when the fangs or flings 
are taken away, the animal languifhes and dies. But it is 
otherwife with the fpine of the fireflare ; it is fixed to the tail, 
as a quill is into the tail of a fowl, and is annually fhed in 
the fame manner : it maybe necefTary for the creature's defence, 
but it is no way necefiary for its exiftence. The wound in- 
flicted by an animal's tail, has fomething terrible in the idea, 
and may from thence alone be fuppofed to be fatal. From hence 
terror might have added poifon to the pain, and called up ima- 
gined dangers : the Negroes univerfally believe that the fling is 


poifonous ; but they never die of the wound ; for, by opening 
the fiih, and laying it to the part injured, it effe&s a fpeedy 
cure. The flightnefs of the remedy proves the innocence of the 

The torpedo is an animal of this kind, equally formidable 
and well known with the former ; but the manner of its operat- 
ing, is to this hour a myftery to mankind. The body of this 
fifh is almoft circular, and thicker than others of the ray kind ; 
the fkin is foft, fmooth, and of a yellowifh colour, marked, as 
all the kind, with large annular fpots ; the eyes very fmall ; 
the tail tapering to a point ; and the weight of the fim from a 
quarter to fifteen pounds. Redi found one twenty-four pounds 
weight. To all outward appearance, it is furnifhed with no 
extraordinary powers ; it has no mufcles formed for particularly 
great exertions ; no internal conformation perceptibly differing 
from the reft of its kind : yet fuch is that unaccountable power 
it poflefles, that, the inftant it is touched, it numbs not only the 
hand and arm, but fometimes alfo the whole body. The fhock 
received by all accounts moft refembles the ftroke of an electri- 
cal machine: fudden, tingling, and painful. "The inftant," 
fays Kempfer, " I touched it with my hand, I felt a terrible 
numbnefs in my arm, and as far up as the flioulder. Even if 
one treads upon it with the fhoe on, it affects not only the leg, 
but the whole thigh upwards. Thofe who touch it with the 
foot are feized with a ftronger palpitation than even thofe who 
touch it with the hand. This numbnefs bears no refemblance to 
that which we feel when a nerve is a long time prefTed, and the 
foot is fetid to be afleep; it rather appears like a fudden vapour, 
which, palling through the pores in an inftant, penetrates to the 
very fprings of life, from whence it diffufes itfelf over the whole 
body, and gives real pain. The nerves are fo affected, that the 
perfon ftruck imagines all the bones of his body, and particularly 
thofe of the limb that received the blow, are driven out of joint. 
All this is accompanied with an univerfal tremor, a ficknefs of 
the ftomach, a general convulfion, and a total fufpenfion of the 
faculties of the mind. In fhort," continues Kempfer, u fuch is 
the pain, that all the force of our promifes and authority could not 
VOL, III. Y y 

354 A N H I S T O R Y OF 

prevail upon a Teaman to undergo the {hock a fecond time. A 
Negro, indeed, that was (landing by, readily undertook to touch 
the torpedo ; and was fcen to handle it without feeling any of its 
effects. He informed us, that his whole fecret confifted in keep- 
ing in his breath ; and we found, upon trial, that this method 
snfwered with ourfelves. When we held in our breath, the tor- 
pedo was harmlefs ; but when we breathed ever fo little, its effi- 
cacy took place." 

Kempfer has very well defer ibed the effects of this animal's 
/hock ; but fucceeding experience has abundantly convinced us, 
that holding in the breath, no way guards againft its violence. 
Thofe, therefore, who, depending on that receipt, fhould play 
with a torpedo, would foon find themfelves painfully undeceived; 
not but that this fifh may be many times touched with perfect 
fecurity ; for it is not upon every occafion that it exerts its po- 
tency. Reaumur, who made feveral trials upon this animal, 
has at leaft convinced the world that it is not neceffarily, but 
by an effort, that the torpedo numbs the hand of him that touches 
it. He tried feveral times, and could eafily tell when the fifh in- 
tended the ftroke, and when it was about to continue harmlefs. 
Always before the fifh intended the ftroke, it flattened the back, 
raifed the head and tail, and then, by a violent contraction in the 
oppofite direction, ftruck with its back againft the preffing fin- 
ger ; and the body, which was before flat, became humped and 

But we muft not infer, as he has done, that the whole effect 
of this animal's exertions arifes from the greatnefs of the blow 
which the fingers receive at the inftant they are ftruck. We 
will, with him, allow that the ftroke is very powerful, equal to 
that of a mufquet-ball, fince he will have it fo; but it is very 
well known, that a blow, though never fo great on the points of 
the fingers, diffufes no numbnefs over the whole body ; fuch a 
blow might break the ends of the fingers indeed, but would hard- 
ly numb the fhoulder. Thofe blows that numb, muft be ap- 
plied immediately to fome great and leading nerve, or to a 
large furface of the body ; a powerful ftroke applied to the points 
of the fingers will be exceilively painful indeed, but the numb- 


nefs will not reach beyond the fingers themfelves. We muft, 
therefore, look for another caufe producing the powerful effects 
wrought by the torpedo. 

Others have afcribed it to a tremulous motion which this 
animal is found topoffefs, feme what refembling that of an horfe's 
fkin, when flung by a fly. This operating under the touch, 
with an amazing quicknefs of vibration, they fuppofe produces 
the uneafy fenfation defcribcd above ; fomething fimilar to what 
we feel when we rub plufh cloth againft the grain. But the 
caufe is quite difproportioned to the effed ; and fo much beyond 
our experience, that this folution is as difficult as the wonder we 
want to explain. 

The moft probable folution feems to be, that the fhock pro- 
ceeds from an animal electricity, which this fifh has fome hidden 
power of ftoring up, and producing on its moft urgent occafions. 
The fhocks are entirely fimilar; the duration of the pain is the 
fame : but how the animal contrives to renew the charge, how 
it. is prevented from evaporating it on contiguous objects, how 
it is originally procured, thefe are difficulties that time alone 
can elucidate. 

But to know even the effects is wifdom. Certain it is, that 
the powers of this animal feem to decline with its vigour; for 
as its ftrength ceafes, the force of the fhock feems todiminifh; 
till, at laft, when the fifh is dead, the whole power is deftroyed, 
and it may be handled or eaten with perfect fecurity : on the 
contrary, when immediately taken out of the fea, its force is 
very great, and not only affects the hand, but if even touched 
with a ftick, the perfon finds himfelf fometimes affected. This 
power, however, is not to be extended to the degree that fome 
would have us believe : as reaching the fifhermen at the end 
of the line, or numbing fiflies in the fame pond. Godignus, in 
the Hiftory of Abyffinia, carries this quality to a moft ridicu- 
lous cxcefs: he tells us of one of thefe that was put intoabaf- 
ket among a number of dead fifhes, and that the next morning, 
the people, to their utter aftonimment, perceived that the tor- 
pedo had actually numbed the dead fillies into life again. 


To conclude, it is generally fuppofed that the female torpedo 
is much more powerful than the male. Lorcnzini, who has 
made feveral experiments upon this animal, feems convinced 
that its pov/er wholly refides in two thin mufcles that cover a 
part of the back. Thefe he calls the trembling fibres ; and he 
aflerts, that the animal may be touched with fafety in any other 
part. It is now known alfo, that there are more fifh than this 
of the ray kind, poflefTed of the numbing quality, which has 
acquired them the name of the torpedo, Thefe are defcribed 
by Atkins and Moore, and found in great abundance, along the 
coaft of Africa. They are fhaped like a mackarel, except that 
the head is much larger ; the effe&s of thefe feem alfo toUiffer 
in fome refpe&s. Moore talks of keeping his hand upon the 
animal ; which in the ray torpedo it is actually impofllble to do. 
" There was no man in the company," fays he, u that could bear 
to keep his hand on this animal the twentieth part of a minute, 
it gave him fo great pain; but upon taking the hand away 
tb? numbnefs went off", and all was well again. The numbing 
quality continued in this torpedo, even after it was dead ; and 
the very fkin was ftill poflefTed of its extraordinary power till 
it became dry." Condamine informs us of a fifh, pofTefied of 
the powers of the torpedo, of a fhape very different from the for- 
mer, and every way refembling a lamprey. This animal, if 
touched by the hand, or even with a flick, inftantly benumbs the 
hand and arm, to the very moulder; and fometimes the man falls 
down under the blow. Thefe animals, therefore, muft afFecl: the 
nervous fyftem in a different manner from the former, both with 
refpecl: to the manner and the intention ; but how this efFecl: is 
wrought, we muft be content to difmifs in obfcurity. 



Of the Lamprey and its Affinities. 

THERE is a fpecies of the lamprey ferved up as a great 
delicacy among the modern Romans, very different from 
ours. Whether theirs be the murenaof the ancients, I will not 
pretend to fay ; but there is nothing more certain, than that our 
lamprey is not. The Roman lamprey agrees with the ancient 
fifli in being kept in ponds, and confidered by the luxurious as a 
very great delicacy. 

The lamprey known among us is differently efti mated, accord- 
ing to the feafon in which it is caught, or the place where it has 
been fed. Thofe that leave the fea to depofit their fpawn in frefh 
waters are the beft ; thofe that are entirely bred in our rivers, and 
that have never been at fea, are confidered as much inferior to the 
former. Thofe that are taken in the months of March, April, 
or May, juft upon their leaving the fea, are reckoned very good ; 
thofe that are caught after they have caft their fpawn, are found 
to be flabby and of little value. Thofe caught in feveral of the 
rivers in Ireland, the people will not venture to touch ; thofe of 
the Englifh Severn are confidered as the moft delicate of all other 
fifh whatever. 

The lamprey much refembles an eel in its general appearance, 
but is of a lighter colour, and rather a clumfier make. It dif- 
fers, however, in the mouth, which is round, and placed rather 
obliquely below the end of the nofe. It more refembles the mouth 
of a leech than an eel; and the animal has a hole on the top of 
the head through which itfpouts water, as in the cetaceous kind. 
There are feven holes on each fide for refpiration ; and the fins are 
formed rather by a lengthening out of the fkin, than any fet of 
bones or fpines for that purpofe. As the mouth is formed re- 
fembling that of a leech, fo it has a property refemblmg that ani- 
mal, of flicking clofe to and fucking any body it is applied to. 
It is extraordinary the power they have of adhering to Hones $ 


which they do fo firmly, as not to be drawn off without fome dif- 
ficulty. We are told of one that weighed but three pounds ; and 
yet it ftuck fo firmly to a ftone of twelve pounds, that it remain- 
ed fufpended at its mouth, from which it was feparated with no 
frnall difficulty. This amazing power of fu&ion is fuppofed to 
arife from the animal's exhaufiing the air within its body by the 
hole over the nofe, while the mouth is clofely fixed to the object, 
and permits no air to enter. It would be eafy to determine the 
weight this animal is thus able to ; which will be .-qual to 
the weight of a column of air of equal diameter with the fifh's 

From fome peculiarity of formation, this animal fwims gene- 
rally with its body as near as poiTible to the furface ; and it might 
eafily be drowned by being kept by force for any time under wa- 
ter. Muralto has given us the anatomy of this animal ; but, in 
a very minute defcription, makes no mention of lungs. Yet I 
am very apt to fufpecl:, that two red glands tifTued with nerves, 
which he defcribes as lying towards the back of the head, are no 
other than the lungs of this animal. The abfolute neceffity it is 
under of breathing in the air, convinces me that it muft have 
lungs, though I do not know of any anatomift that has defcribed 

The adhefive quality in the lamprey, may be in fome mea- 
fure increafed by that flimy fubftance with which its body is all 
over fmeared; a fubftance that ferves at once to keep it warm 
in its cold element, and alfo to keep its fkin foft and pliant. This 
mucus is feparated by two long lymphatic canals, that extend 
on each fide from the head to the tail, and that furnifh it in great 
abundance. As to its inteftines, it feems to have but one great 
bowel, running from the mouth to the vent, narrow at both ends, 
and wide in the middle. 

So fimple v a conformation feems to imply an equal fimplicity 
of appetite. In fa6t, the lamprey's food is either flime and water, 
or fuch fmall water-infeds as are fcarce perceivable. Perhaps 
its appetite may be more aHve at fea, of which it is properly 
a native; but when it comes up into our rivers, it is hardly per- 
ceived to devour any thing. 


Its ufual time of leaving the fea, which it is annually feen 
to do in order to fpawn, is about the beginning of fpring ; and 
after a {lay of a few months, it returns again to the fea. Their pre- 
paration for fpawning is peculiar; their manner is to make 
holes in the gravelly bottom of rivers; and on this occafion their 
fucking power is particularly ferviceable ; for if they meet with 
a {rone of a considerable fize, they will remove it and throw it 
out. Their young are produced from eggs in the manner of flat- 
fim ; the female remains near the place where they are excluded, 
and continues with them till they come forth. She is fometimes 
feen with her whole family playing about her ; and after fomo 
time flie conduces them in triumph back to the ocean. 

But fome have not fufficient ft rength to return; and thefe 
continue in the frefh water till they die. Indeed, the life of this 
fifh, according to Rondeletius, who has given its hi {lory, is but 
of very mort continuance ; and a {ingle brood is the extent of 
the female's fertility. As foon as {he has returned after cafling 
her eggs, me feems exhaufted and flabby. She becomes old 
before her time; and two years is generally the limit of her 

However this may be, they are very indifferent eating after 
they have caft their eggs, and particularly at the approach of hot 
weather. The beft feafon for them is the months of March, 
April, and May ; and they are ufually taken in nets with fal- 
mon, and fometimes in bafkets at the bottom of the river. It 
has been an old cuftom for the city of Gloucefter, annually to 
prefent the king with a lamprey-pie ; and as the gift is made at 
Chriftmas, it is not without great difficulty the corporation can 
procure the proper quantity, though they give a guinea a piece 
for taking them. 

How much they were valued among the ancients, or a fifh 
bearing fome refemblance to them, appears from all the daffies 
that have praifed good living or ridiculed gluttony. One flory 
we are told of this fifh, with which I will conclude its hiftory. 
A fenator of Rome, whofe name does not deferve being tranf- 
mitted topofterity, was famous for the delicacy of his lampreys. 


Tigellinus, Manucius, and all the celebrated epicures of Rome, 
were loud in his praifes : no man's hm had fuch a flavour, was 
fo nicely fed, or fo exactly pickled. Auguftus, hearing fo much 
of this man's entertainments, defired to be his gueft; and fooa 
found that fame had been juft to his merits ; the man had indeed 
very fine lampreys, and of an exquifite flavour. The emperor 
was dcfirous of knowing the method by which he fed his fim to 
fo fine a relifh ; and the glutton, making no fecret of his art, in- 
informed him that his way was to throw into his ponds fuch of 
his flaves as had at any time difpleafed him. Auguftus, we are 
told, was not much pleafed with his receipt; and inftantly or- 
dered all his ponds to be filled up. The ftory would have ended 
better, if he had ordered the owner to be flung in alfo. 


The Sturgeon and its Varieties. 

TH E fturgeon, with a form as terrible and a body as large 
as the {hark, is yet as harmlefs as the fim we have been 
]uft defcribing; incapable and unwilling to injure others, it flies 
from the fmalleft fifties, and generally falls a victim to its own 

The fturgeon, in its general form, refembles a frefh-water pike. 
The nofe is long ; the mouth is fituated beneath, being fmail, 
and without jaw-bones or teeth. But, though it is fo harmlefs 
and ill provided for war, the body is formidable enough to appear- 
ance. It is long, pentagonal, and covered with five rows of large 
bony knobs, one row on the back, and two on each fide, and a 
number of fins to give it greater expedition. Of this fifh there 
are three kinds, the common fturgeon, the caviar fturgeon, and 
the hufo or ifinglafs fim. The firft has eleven knobs or fcales 
on the back; the fecond has fifteen; and the latter thirteen on 
the back, and forty-three on the tail. Thefe differences feem 
flight to us who only confider the animal's form; but thofe who 


confider its ufcs, find the diftin&ion of confiderable importance. 
The firft is the fturgconf the flefh of which is fent pickled 
into all parts of Europe. The fecond is the fifli, from the roe 
of which that noted delicacy culled caviar is made; and the third, 
befides fupplying the caviar, furnifhes alfo the valuable commo- 
dity of ifinglafs. They all grow to a very great fize; and fome 

of them have been found above eighteen feet long. 

There is not a country in Europe but what this fifh vifits at 
different feafons; it annually afcends the largeft rivers tofpawn, 
and propagates in an amazing number. The inhabitants along 
the banks of the Po, the Danube, and the Wolga, make great 
profit yearly of its incurfions up the ftream, and have their nets 
prepared for its reception. The fturgeon aMb is brought daily 
to the markets of Rome and Venice^ and they are known to 
abound in the Mediterranean fea. Yet thofe fifh that keep en- 
tirely either in fait or frefh water are but comparatively fmall. 
When the fturgeon enjoys the viciffitude of frelh and fait water^ 
it is then that it grows to an enormous fize, fo as almoft to rival 
even the whale in magnitude* 

Nor are we without frequent vifits from this much efteemed 
fifh in England. It is often accidentally taken in our rivers 
in falmon-nets, particularly in thofe parts that are not far re- 
mote from the fea. ' The largeft we have heard of caught in 
Great-Britain, was a fifb taken in the E (Ice, where they are 
moil frequently found, which weighed four hundred and fixty 
pounds. An enormous iize to thofe Who have only feen our 
frefh- water fifties ! 

North- America alfo furnifhes the fturgeon; its rivers in 
May, June, and July, fupply them in very great abundance. 
At that time they are feen fporting in the water, and leaping 
from its furface feveral yards into the air. When they fall again 
rn their fides, the concuflion is fo violent, that the noife is heard 
in ftill weather at a very confiderable diftance. 

But of all places where this animal is to be found, it appears 
no where in fuch numbers as in the Lakes of FrifcheharF and 
VOL, III. Z z 


CurifchafF, near the city of Pillau. In the rivers alfo that empty 
themfelves into the Euxine fea, this fllh is caught in great num- 
bers, particularly at the mouth of the river Don. In all thefe 
places the fifhermen regularly expect their arrival from the fea, 
and have their nets and fait ready prepared for their reception. 

As the fturgeon is an harmlefs fifh and no way voracious, it 
is never caught by a bait in the ordinary manner of riming, but 
always in nets. From the defcription given above of its mouth, 
it is not to be fuppofed that the fturgeon would fwallow any 
hook, capable of holding fo large a bulk and fo ftrong a fwim- 
mer. In fa&, it never attempts to feize any of the finny tribe, 
but lives by rooting at the bottom of the fea, where it makes 
infects and fea-plants its whole fubfiftence. From this quality 
of floundering at the bottom, it has received its name; which 
comes from the German verb, ftoeren^ fignifying to wallow in 
the mud. That it lives on no large animals is obvious to all 
thofe who cut it open, as nothing is found in its ftomach but 
a kind of {limy fubftance, which has induced fome to think it 
lives only on water and air. From hence there is a German 
proverb, which is applied to a man extremely temperate, when 
they fay, he is as moderate as; a fturgeon. 

As the fturgeon is fo temperate in its appetites, fo is it equally 
timid in its nature. There would be fcarce any method of 
taking it, did not its natural defire of propagation, induce it to 
incur fo great a variety of dangers. The fmalleft fifh is alone 
fufficient U> terrify a flioal of fturgeons ; for, being unfurnimed 
with any weapon of defence, they are obliged totruft to their fwift- 
nefs and their caution for fecurity. Like all animals that do not 
make war upon others, fturgeons live in fociety among them- 
felves, rather for the purpofes of pleafure, than from any power 
of mutual protection. Gefner even afTerts, that they are delight- 
ed with founds of various kinds; and that he has feen them 
fhoal together, at the notes of a trumpet. 

The ufual time, as was faid before, for the fturgeon to come 
up rivers todepofit its fpawn, is about the beginning of fummer, 
when the fifliennen of all great rivers make a regular prepa- 


ration for its reception. At Pillau particularly, the mores are 
formed into diftri&s, and Slotted to companies of fi mermen, 
fome of which are rented for about three hundred pounds a year. 
The nets in which the fturgeon is caught, are made of fmall 
cord, and placed acrofs the mouth of the river; but in fuch a 
manner that, whether the tide ebbs or flows, the pouch of the 
net goes with the ftream. The fturgcon thus caught, while in the 
water, is one of the ftrongeft fifties that fwims, and often breaks 
the net to pieces that enclofes it ; but the inftant it is raifed with 
its head above water, all its activity ceafes : it is then a lifelefs, 
fpiritlefs lump, and fuffers itfelf to be tamely dragged on more. 
It has been found prudent, however, to draw it to more gently ; 
for, if excited by any unnecefTary violence, it has been found to 
break the fimermen's legs with a blow of its tail. The moft 
experienced rimers, therefore, when they have drawn it to the 
brink, keep the head ftill elevated, which prevents its doing any 
mifchief with the hinder part of the body: others, by a nooze, 
fatten the head and the tail together; and thus, without imme- 
diately difpatching it^ bring it to the market, if there be one 
near; or keep it till their number is compleated for exportation. 

The flem of this animal pickled, is very well known at all 
the tables of Europe; and is even more prized in England, 
than in any of the countries where it is ufually caught. The 
fifhermen have two different methods of preparing it. The one 
is by cutting it in long, pieces lengthwife, and having falted 
them, by hanging them up in the fun to dry, the fifh thus pre- 
pared is fold in all the countries of the Levant, and fupplies the 
want of better provision. The other method, which is ufually 
pra6Hfed in Holland, and along the mores of the Baltic, is to 
cut the fturgeon crofswife into fliort pieces, and put it into 
fmall barrels, with a pickle made of fait and faumure. This 
is the fturgeon which is fold in England: and of which great 
quantities came from the north, until we gave encouragement 
to the importation of it from North- America. From thence 
we are very well fupplied ; but it is faid, not with fuch gootj 
fifh as thofe imported from the north of Europe. 


A very great trade is alfo carried on with the roc of the flur- 
geon, preferved in a particular muiinw, and called caviar; it is 
made from the roe of all kinds of flurgeon, but particularly the 
fecqnd. This is much more in requeft in other countries of 
Europe than with us. To all thefe high rdiftied meats, the 
appetite muil be formed by degrees ; and though formerly, even 
in England, it was very much in requeft at the politeft tables, 
it is at prefent faak entirely into difufe. It is ftill, however, 
a confid;.-rable merchandize among the Turks, Greeks, and 
Venetians. Caviar fomewhat refembles foft foap in confiftence ; 
but it is of a brown, uniform colour, and is eaten ascheefe with 
bread. The manner of making it is this: they take the fpawn 
from the body of the fturgeon ; for it is to be obferved, that the 
flurgeon differs from other cartilaginous fifh, in that it has 
fpawn like a cod, and not eggs like a ray. They take the 
fpawn, I fay, and freeing it from the fmall membranes that 
connect it together, they wafh it with vinegar, and afterwards 
fpreacl it to dry upon a table: they then put it into a veflel with 
fait, breaking the fpawn with their hands, and not with a pef- 
tle: this done, they put it into a canvas bag, letting the liquor 
drain from it ; laftly, they put it into a tub, with holes in the bot- 
tom, fo that, if there be any moifture ftill remaining, it may 
run out : then it is preflcd down, and covered up clofe for ufe. 

But the hufo, or ifmglafs fifh, furnifhes a ftill more valuable 
commodity. This fifh is caught in great quantities in the Da- 
nube, from the months of October to January : it is feldom un- 
der fifty pounds weight, and often above four hundred; its flefh 
is foft, glutinous and flabby ; but it js fometimes falted, which 
makes it better tafted, and then it turns red like falmon. It is 
for the commodity it furnifhes that it is chiefly taken. Ifinglafs is 
of a whitifh fubftance, inclining to yellow, done up into rolls, 
and fo exported for ufe. It is very well known, as ferviccable 
not only in medicine, but many arts. The varniflier, the wine 
merchant, and even the clothier, know its ufes ; and very great 
fums are yearly expended upon this fingle article of commerce. 
The manner of making it is this ; they take the fkin, the entrails, 
the fins and the tail of this fifh, and cut them into fmall pieces ; 


thefe are left to macerate in afufficient quantity of warm water, 
and they are all boiled fhofctly after with a flow fire, until they are 
difiblved and reduced to a jelly ; this jelly is fpread upon inftru- 
ments, made for the purpofe, fb, that drying, it anumes the 
form of parchment, and, when quite dry, it is then rolled into the 
form which we fee it in the fhops. 

This valuable commodity is principally furnimed from Ruffia, 
where they prepare great quantities furprizingly cheap. Mr. 
Jackfon, an ingenious countryman of our own, found out an ob- 
vious method of making a glue at home that anfwered all the 
purpofes of ifmglafs ; but what with the trouble of making it, 
and perhaps the arts put in practice to underfejl him, he was, as 
I am told, obliged to difcontinue the improvement of his difco- 
very. Indeed, it is a vain attempt to manufacture among our- 
felves thofe things which may be more naturally and cheaply 
fupplied elfewhere. We have many traders that are unnaturally, 
if I may fo exprefs it, employed among us i who furnifh more 
laborioufly thofe neceflaries with which other countries could 
eafily and cheaply fupply us. It would be wifer to take what 
they can thus produce ; and to turn our artizans to the increafe 
and manufacture of fuch productions as thrive more readily 
among us, Were, for inftance, the number of hands that we 
now have employed in the manufacture of filk, turned to the in- 
creafe of agriculture, it is probable that the increafed quantity of 
corn thus produced, would be more than an equivalent for the 
diminution of national wealth } in purchafing wrought filk from 
other countries. 


Of Anomalous Cartilaginous Fljhes. 

OF all others, the cartilaginous clafs feems to abound with 
the greateft variety of ill-formed animals ; and, if philo- 
fophy could allow the expreffion, we might fay, that the cartila- 
ginous clafs was the clafs of monfters : in fact, it exhibits a vari- 


cty of fhapelefs beings, the deviations of which from the ufual 
form of fifties are beyond the power of words to defcribe, and 
fcarcely of the pencil to draw. In this clafs we have the pipe 
fifh, that almoft tapers to a thread, and the fun fifh, that has the 
appearance of a bulky head, but the body cut off in the middle ; 
the hippocampus, with an head fomewhat like that of an horfe, 
and the water bat, .whofe head can fcarcely be diftinguifhed from 
the body. In this clafs we find the fifhing frog, which, from its 
deformity, fome have called the fea devil, the chimaera, the 
lump fifh, the fea porcupine, and the fea fnail. Of all thefe the 
hiftory is but little known j and naturalifls fupply the place with 

The fun fijfh fometimes grows to a very large fize; one taken 
near Plymouth was five hundred weight. In form it refembles 
a bream, or fome deep fifh cut ofF in the middle : the mouth is 
very fmall, and contains in each jaw two broad teeth, with fharp 
edges : the colour of the back is dufky and dappled, and the belly 
is of a filvery white. When boiled, it has been obferved to 
turn to a glutinous jelly, and would^ moft probably ferve for 
all the purpofes of ifihglafs, were it found in fufficient plenty. 

The fifhing frog in fhape very much refembles a tadpole, or 
young frog, but then a tadpole of enormous fize, for it grows to 
above five feet long, and its mouth is fometimes a yard wide. 
Nothing can exceed its deformity. The head is much bigger 
than the whole body; the under jaw projects beyond the upper, 
and both are armed with rows of flen4er, fharp teeth : the palate 
and the tongue arc furnifhed with teeth in like manner ; the 
eyes are placed on the top of the head, and are encompaffed with 
prickles : immediately above the nofe are two long beards or fila- 
ments, fmall in the beginning, but thicker at the end, and round ; 
thefe, as it is faid, anfwer a very fmgular purpofe ; for being 
made fomewhat rcfembling a fiftiing line it is afTerted that the. ani- 
mal converts them to the purpofes of fifhing. With thefe ex- 
tended, as Pliny afferts, the fifhing frog hides in muddy waters, 
and leaves nothing but the beards to be feen ; the curiofity of the 
fmaller fifh brings them to view thefe filaments, and their hun- 
ger induces them to feize the bait ; upon which the animal in 



ambufh inftantly draws in its filaments with the little fifh that 
had taken the bait, and devours it without mercy. This ftory, 
though apparently improbable, has found credit among fome of 
our beft naturalifts ; but what induces me to doubt the fact is, 
that there is another fpecies of this animal that has no beards, 
which it would not want if they were neceflary to the exiftence 
of the kind. Rondelanius informs us, that if we take out the 
bowels, the body will appear with a kind of tranfparence ; and 
that if a lighted candle be placed within the body, as in a lantern, 
the whole has a very formidable appearance. The fifhermen, 
however, have in general a great regard for this ugly fifli, as it 
is an enemy to the dog fifh, the bodies of thofe fierce and voraci- 
ous animals being often found in its ftomach : whenever they 
take it, therefore, they always fet it at liberty. 

The lump fifh is trifling in fize, compared to the former: its 
length is but fixteen inches, and its weight about four pounds; 
the fhape of the body is like that of a bream, deep, and it fwims 
edgeways ; the back is fliarp and elevated, and the belly flat ; the 
lips, mouth and tongue of this animal are of a deep red ; the 
whole fkin is rough, with bony knobs, the largeft row is along 
the ridge of the back ; the belly is of a bright crimfon colour : 
but what makes the chief fin gularity in this fifh, is an oval aper- 
ture in the belly, furrounded with a flefhy, foft fubftance, that 
feems bearded all round ; by means of this part it adheres with 
vaft force to any thing it pleafes. If flung into a pail of water, 
it will flick fo clofe to the bottom, that, on taking the fifh by the 
tail, one may lift up pail and all, though it holds feveral gallons 
of water. Great numbers of thefe fifh are found along the coafts 
of Greenland in, the beginning of fummer, where they refort to 
fpawn. Their roe is remarkably large, and the Greenlanders 
boil it to a pulp for eating. They are extremely fat, but not ad- 
mired in England, being both flabby and infipid. 

The fea mail takes its name from the foft and unctuous tex- 
ture of its body, refembling the fnail upon land. It is almoft 
tranfparent, and foondiflblves and melts away. It is but a little 
animal, being not above five inches long. The colour, whem 


frefh taken, is of a pale brown, the fhape of the body round, and 
the back fin reaches all the way from the head to the tail. Be- 
neath the throat is a round deprefnon, of a whitifli colour, fur- 
rounded by twelve brown fpots, placed in a circle. It is taken 
in England at the mouths of rivers, four or five miles diftant 
from the fea. 

The body of the pipe fifh, in the thickefl part, is not thicker 
than a fwan-quill, while it is above fixteen inches long. This 
is angular, but the angles being not very {harp, they are not 
difcernible until the fifh is dried. Its general colour is an olive 
brown, marked with numbers of bluifh lines, pointing from the 
back to the belly. It is viviparous; for, on crufhing one that 
was juft taken, hundreds of very minute young ones were ob- 
ferved to crawl about. 

The hippocampus, which, from the form of its head fome call 
the fea horfe, never exceeds nine inches in length. It is about as 
thick as a man's thumb, and the body is faid, while alive, to have 
hair on the fore part, which falls ofF when it is dead. The fnout 
is a fort of a tube with a hole at the bottom, to which there is 
a cover, which the animal can open and fliut at pleafure. Be- 
hind the eyes there are two fins, which look like ears ; and 
above them are two holes, which ferve for refpiration. The 
whole body feems to be compofed of cartilaginous rings, on the 
intermediate membranes of which feveral fmall prickles are 
placed. It is found in the Mediterranean, and alib in the Weft- 
ern ocean, and, upon the whole, more refembles a great cater- 
pillar than a fifh. The antients confidered it as extremely 
venomous; probably induced by its peculiar figure. 

From thefe harmlefs animals covered with a flight coat of 
mail, we may proceed to others, more thickly defended, and 
more formidably armed, whofe exa& ftation in the fcale of fifties 
is not yet afcertained. While Linnaeus ranks them among thecar- 
tilaginous kinds, a later naturalift places them among the fpi- 
nous clafs. With which tribe they moft agree, fucceeding ob- 
fervations muft determine. At prefent, we feem better acquainted 
with their figure than their hiftory; their deformity is obvious; 


and the venomous nature of the greateft number, has been con- 
firmed by fatal experience. This circumftance, as well as the 
happy diftance at which they are placed from us, being all found 
in the Oriental or American fcas, may have prevented a more 
critical enquiry; fo that we know but little of the nature of 
their malignity, and ftill lefs of their purfuits and enmities in 
the deep. 

In the firfr. of this tribe we may place the fea6rb, which is al- 
mofl round, has a mouth like a frog, and is from feven inches to 
two feet long. Like the porcupine, from whence it fometirnes 
takes its name, being alfo called the fea porcupine, it is covered 
over with long thorns or prickles, which point on every fide ; and 
when the animal is enraged, it can blow up its body as round as 
a bladder. Of this extraordinary creature there are many kinds: 
fome threatening only with fpines, as the fea hedge-hog; others 
defended with a bony helmet that covers the head, as the oftra- 
ciori ; others with a coat of mail from the head to the tail, where 
it terminates in a point, as the centrifcus ; and others ftill armed 
offenfively and defenfively with bones and fpines, as the fhield 

Of thefe fcarce one is without its peculiar weapon of offence. 
The centrifcus wounds with its fpine; the oftracion poifons with 
its venom; the orb is impregnable, and is abfolutely poifonous, 
if eaten. Indeed, their figure is not fuch as would tempt one to 
make the experiment; and the natives of thofe countries where 
they are found, are careful to inform foreigners of their danger : 
yet a certain failor at the Cape of Good Hope, not believing what 
the Dutch told him concerning their venom, was refolved to 
make the experiment, and break through a prejudice which he 
Xuppofed was founded on the animal's deformity. He tried and 
eat one ; but his raftmefs coft him his life; he inftantly fell fick, 
and died a few days after. 

Thefe frightful animals are of different fizes ; fome not bigger 
than a foot-ball, and others as large as a bufhel. They almoft 
all flatten and erccl their fpines at pleafure, and increafe the ter- 
rors of their appearance in proportion to the approach of danger. 

VOL. III. 3 A 


At firft they feem more inoffenfive; their body oblong, with all 
their weapons pointing towards the tail ; but upon being provoked 
or alarmed, the body that before feemed (mail, fwells to the view ; 
the animal vifibly grows rounder and larger, and all its prickles 
fland upright, and threaten the invader on every fide. The Ame- 
ricans often amufc thernfslves with the barren pleafure of catch- 
ing thefe frightful creatures by a line and hook baited with a 
piece of fea-crab. The animal approaches the bait with its fpines 
flattened: but when hooked and flopped by the line, ftraight all 
its fpines are erected; the whole body being armed in fuch a 
manner at all points, that it is impoffible to lay hold of it on any 
part. For this reafon it is dragged to fome diftance from the 
water, and there it quickly expires. In the middle of the belly 
of all thefe there is a fort of bag or bladder filled with air, and by 
the inflation of which the animal fwells itfelf in the manner al- 
ready mentioned. 

In defcribing the deformed animals of this clafs, one is fome- 
times at a lofs whether it be a fim or an infect that lies before 

Thus the hippocampus and the pipe-fifh bear a flrong refem- 
blance to the caterpillar and the worm ; while the lefTer orb bears 
fome likenefs to the clafs of fea eggs to bedefcribed after. I will 
conclude this account of cartilaginous fimes with the defcription 
of an animal which I would fcarcely call a fim, but that father 
Labat dignifies it with the name. Indeed, this clafs teems with 
fuch a number of odd fhaped animals, that one is prompted to 
rank every thing extraordinary of the finny fpecies among the 
number; but befides, Labat fays, its bones are cartilaginous, 
and that may entitle it to a place here. 

The animal I mean is the galley fifh, which Linnaeus de- 
grades into the infect tribe, under the title of the medufa, but 
which I choofe to place in this tribe, from its habits being fome- 
what fimilar. To the eye of an unmindful fpeclator, this fim. 
feems a tranfparent bubble fwimming on the furface of the fea, or 
like a bladder varioufly and beautifully painted with vivid co- 
lours, where red and violet predominate as varioufly oppofed to 


the beams of the fun. It is however an actual fifh ; the body of 
which is compofed of cartilages, and a very thin fkin filled with 
air, which thus' keeps the animal floating on the furface as the 
waves and the winds happen to drive. Sometimes it is fecn 
thrown on the fhore by one wave, and again wafhed back into 
the fea by another. Perfons who happen to be walking along the 
fhore often happen to tread upon thefe animals ; and the burft- 
ing of their body yields a report like that when one treads upon 
the fvvim of a fifh. It has eight broad feet with which it fwims r 
or which it expands to catch the air as with a fail. It faftens 
itfelf to whatever it meets, by means of its legs, which have an 
adhefive quality. Whether they move when on more, Labat 
could never perceive, though he did every thing to make them 
ftir; he only fawthat it ftrongly adhered to whatever fubftances 
he applied it to. It is very common in America, and grows to the 
fize of a goofe-egg, or fomewhat more. It is perpetually feen 
floating; and no efforts that are ufed to hurt it, can fink it to the 
bottom. All that appears above water is a bladder, clear and 
tranfparent as glafs, and mining with the moft beautiful colours 
of the rainbow. Beneath, in the water, are four of the feet alrea- 
dy mentioned, that ferve as oars, while the other four are expanded 
above to fail with. But what is moft remarkable in this extra- 
ordinary creature, is the violent pungency of the flimy fubftance 
with which its legs are fmeared. If the fmalleft quantity but 
touch the fkin, fo cauftic is its quality, that it burns it like hot oil 
dropped on the part affe&ed. The pain is worfe in the heat of 
the day, but ceafes in the cool of the evening. It is from feed- 
ing on thefe that Labat thinks the poifonous quality contracted by 
fome Weft-Indian fifh may be accounted for. It is certain thefe 
animals are extremely common along all the coafts in the Gulf 
of Mexico; and whenever the more is covered with them in an 
unufual manner, it is confidered as a certain fore-runner of a 




The Divifon of Spinous Fifties. 

TH E third general divifion of fifhes, is into that of the fpi- 
nous or bony kind. Thefe are obvioufly diftinguiihed 
from the reft by having a complete bony covering to their gills ; 
by their being furnifhed with no other method of breathing but 
gills only ; by their bones, which are fharp and thorny ; and their 
tails, which are placed in a fituation perpendicular to the body. 
This is that clafs which alone our later naturalifts are willing to 
admit as fifhes. The cetaceous clafs with them are but beads 
that have taken up their abode in the ocean ; the cartilaginous 
clafs are an amphibious band, that are but half denizens of that 
element : it is fifhes of the fpinous kind that really deferve the 

This djftinclion the generality of mankind will hardly allow; 
but whatever be the juftice of this preference in favour of the fpi- 
nous clafs, it is certain that the cetaceous and cartilaginous claffes 
bear no proportion to them in number. Of the fpinous clafFes 
are already known above four hundred fpecies ; fo that the num-' 
bers of the former are trifling in comparifon, and make not above 
a fifth part of the finny creation. 

From the great variety in this clafs, it is obvious how difficult 
a tafk it mufl have been to defcribe or remember even a part of 
what it contains. When above four hundred different fcrts of ani- 
mals offer themfelves to confideration, the mind is bewildered in 
the multiplicity of objects that all lay fome claim to its attention. 
To obviate this confufion, fyftems have been devifed, which a 


throwing feveral fifties that agree in many particulars into one 
groupe, and thus uniting all into fo many particular bodies, the 
mind that was incapable of feparately confideriiig each, is enabled 
to comprehend all when thus offered in larger mafTes to its confi- 

Indeed, of all the beings in animated nature, fifties moll de- 
mand a fyftematical arrangement. Quadrupeds are but few, 
and can be all known ; birds, from their feldom varying in their 
fize, can be very tolerably diftinguiftied without fyftem ; but 
among fifties, which no fize can difcriminate, where the animal 
ten inches and the animal ten feet long is entirely the fame, 
there muft be fome other criterion by which they are to be diilin- 
guifhed; fomething that gives precifion to our ideas of the ani- 
mal whofe hiftory we defire to know. 

Of the real hiftory of fifties, very little is yet known ; but of 
very many we have full and fufficient accounts, as to their ex- 
ternal form. It would be unpardonable, therefore, in an hiftory 
of thefe animals, not to give the little we do know ; and, at leaft, 
arrange our forces, though v/e cannot tell their defoliation. In 
this art of arrangement, Artedi and Linnaeus have long beencon- 
fpicuous : they have both taken a view of the animal's form in 
different lights ; and, from the parts which moft {truck them, 
have founded their refpective fyftems. 

Artedi, who was foremoft, perceiving that fome fifties had 
hard prickly fins, as the pike; that others had foft pliant ones, 
as the herring ; and that others ftill wanted that particular fin, 
by which the gills are opened and fhut, as the eel, made out a 
fyftem from thefe varieties. Linnceus, on the other hand, reject- 
ing this fyftem, which he found liable to too many exceptions, 
confidered the fins, not with regard to their fubftance, but their 
pofition. The ventral fins feem to be the great object of his 
fyftem ; he confiders them in fifties fupplying the fame offices as 
feet in quadrupeds ; and from their total abfence, or from their 
being fituated nearer the head or the tail, in different fifties^ he 
takes the differences of his fyftem. 


Thefe arrangements, which are totally arbitrary, and which 
are rather a method than a fcience, arc always fluctuating; and 
the laft is generally preferred to that which went before. There 
has lately appeared, however, a fyftem, cornpofed by mr. Gouan 
of Montpellier, that deferves applaufe for more than its novelty. 
It appears to me the beft arrangement of this kind that ever 
was made; and in it the divifions are not only precifely fyfte- 
rnatical, but in fome meafure adopted by nature itfelf. This 
learned Frenchman has united the fyftems of Artedi and Lin- 
nseus together; and by bringing one to correct the other, has 
made out a number of tribes, that are marked with the utmoft 
precifion. A part of his fyfrem, however, we have already 
gone through in the cartilaginous, or, as he calls a part of them, 
the branchioflegom tribe of fifties. In the arrangement of thefe 
I have followed Linnaeus, as the number of them was but 
fmall, and his method firnple. But in that which is more pro- 
perly called the fpinous clafs of fifhes, I will follow mr. Gouan's 
fyflem ; the terms of which, as well as of all the former fyfrems, 
require fome explanation. I do not love to multiply the techni- 
cal terms of a fcience ; but it often happens that names, by being 
long ufbd, are as nccefTary to be known as the fcience itfelf. 

If we confider the fubfrance of the fin of a fim, we fhall find 
it compofed, befidcs the fkin, either of ftraight, hard, pointed, 
bony prickles or fpines, as in the pike; or of foft, crooked or 
forked bones, or cartilages, as in the herring, The nfh that 
have bony prickly fins, are called prickly-finned fim ; the lat- 
ter, that have foft or cartilaginous fins, are called foft-finned 
fim. The prickly-finned fim have received the Greek new- 
formed name of dcantbopterigii the foft-finned fifh have like- 
wife their barbarous Greek name of Malacopterigii. Thus far 
Artedi has fupplied mr. Gouan with names and divifions. All 
fpinous fifh are divided into prickly-finned fifh, and foft-finned 

Again, Linnaeus has taught him o remark the fituation of 
the fins : for the ventral or belly fins^ which are thofe particu- 
larly to be remarked, are either wholly wanting, as in the eel, 
and then the fim is called apodal (a Greek word fignifying 

S PINO U S FI S HE S. 375 

without feet;) or the ventral fins are placed more forward than 
the peftoral fins, as in the haddock, and then the animal is 
called a jugular fifh ; or the ventral fins are placed directly 
under the pectoral fins, as in the father-lafher, and then it is 
called a thoracic filh : or, laftly, the ventral fins are placed 
nearer the tail than the pectoral fins, as in the minovv, and then 
it is an abdominal fifh. 

Poflefled of thefe diftributions, the French naturalift mixes 
and unites them into two grand aivifions. All the prickly- 
finned fifh make one general divifion ; all the foft-finned fifh 
another. Thefe firft are diftinguifhed from each other, as being 
either apodal^ jugular ', thoracic^ or abdominal. Thus there are 
prickly-finned apodal fifhes, prickly-finned jugular fifhes, 
prickly-finned thoracic fifhes, and prickly-finned abdominal 
fifhes. On the other hand, the foft-finned fifhes fall under 
a fimilar diftribution, and make the other general divifion. 
Thus there are foft-finned apodal fifhes, foft-finned jugular 
fifhes, foft-finned thoracic fifhes, and foft-finned abdominal 
fifhes. Thefe general characters are ftrongly marked, and 
eafily remembered. It only remains, therefore, to divide thefe 
into fuch tribes as are moft ftrongly marked by nature ; and 
to give the diftincl: characters of each, to form a complete fyftern 
with great fimplicity. This mr. Gouan has done ; and the 
tribes into which he has diflributed each of thefe divifions, 
exactly amount to fifty. Thus the reader, who can contain in 
his memory the chara&eriflic marks of fifty kinds, will have a 
tolerable idea of the form of every kind of fpinous fifh. I fay, 
of the form ; for as to the hiftory and the nature of the animal 
itfelf, that can only be obtained by experience and information. 


I. THE Trichurus. The body of a fword-form: the head 
oblong : the teeth fword-like, bearded near the points ; the fore 
teeth largefr, : the fin that covers the gills with fcven fpines; 
the tail ending in a point without fins; an inhabitant near the 


Oriental and American fhores ; of a filvery white; frequently 
leaping into the fifhermen's boats in China. 

2. The Xlphias or Swcrd-fijh. The body round ; the head 
long; the upper jaw terminating by a long beak, in form of a 
fword ; the fin that covers the gills with fix fpines ; an inhabitant 
of Europe; an enemy to the whale. 

3. The Opbidium or Gllthead. The body fv/ord-like ; the 
head blunt; the fin covering the gills with feven fpines ; the 
opening of the mouth fideways ; the fins of the back, the anus, 
and the tail, all joining together; and the mofl beautiful of all 
fifties, covered with green, gold, and filver; it is by failors cal- 
led the dolphin, and gives chace to the flying-fifh. 


4. The Trachinus or Weaver. The body oblong ; the head 
obtufe ; the bones covering the gills jagged at the bottom ; the 
fins covering the gills with fix fpines; the anus near the bread; 
buries itfelf in the fand, leaving only its nofe out ; and if trod 
on, immediately ftrikes with the fpines that form its dorial fins, 
which are venomous and dangerous. 

5. The UranofcGpus. The body wedge-like ; the head al- 
moft round, and larger than the body ; the mouth flat ; the eyes 
on the top of the head ; the fin covering the gills with five 
fpines ; the anus in the middle of the body ; an inhabitant of the 
Mediterranean fea. 

6. The Callyonymus or Dragonet. The body almoft wedge- 
like; the head broad, and larger than the body: the mouth even 
with the body; the bony covering of the gills clofe (hut; the 
opening to the gills behind the head ; the fin covering the gills 
with fix fpines ; an inhabitant of the Atlantic ocean. 

7. The Blennius or Blenny. The body oblong ; the head 
obtufely bevile ; the teeth a fingle range ; the fin covering the 
gills with fix fpines ; the ventral fins have two fmall blunt 
bones i.n each ; a fpecies of this animal is viviparous. 



8. The Gobius or Gudgeon. The body round and oblong; ths 
head with two little holes between the eyes, one before the other; 
the fin covering the gills with fix fpines; the ventral fins join- 
ed together. 

9. The Cepola. The body f word -like; the head blunt; the 
mouth flat; the fin covering the gills with fixfpines; the fins 
diftindl: ; an inhabitant of the Mediterranean fea* 

10. The Corypbana or Razor-fjh. The body wedge-like; 
the head very bevile; the fin covering the gills with five fpines. 

11. The Scomber or Mackarel, The body oblong; the line 
funning down the fide zigzagged towards the tail ; the head 
fharp and fmall \ the fins covering the gills with fix fpines j 
feveral falfe fins towards the tail; 

12. The Labrus or Wraffe. The body oval ; the head mid- 
dling; the lips doubled inward; both cutting and grinding teeth; 
the covers of the gills fcaly ; the fin covering the gills with five 
fpines ; the pe6toral fins pointed. 

13. The Spar us or Sea-bream. The body oblong; the head 
middling; the lips not inverted; the teeth cutting and grinding; 
the cover of the gills fcaly; the fins covering the gills with five 
rays ; the pectoral fins pointed. 

14. The Chtztodon or Cat-fijb. The body oblong ; the head 
fmall ; the teeth {lender and bending; the fin covering the gills 
with five or fix fpines ; the fins of the back and anus fcaly; 

15. The Sci&na. The body nearly eliptical ; the head bevile; 
the covers of the fins fcaly ; the fin covering the gills with fix 
rays ; the fins of the back jagged, and hidden in a furrow in 
the back. 

1 6. The Perch. The body oblong ; the head bevile ; the co- 
vers of the gills fcaly and toothed; the fin covering the gills 
with feven fpines ; the fins in fome jagged* 



27. The Scorpana or Father-lajher. The body oblong ; tfre 
head great, with beards; the covers of the gills armed with 
prickles ;. the fin covering the gills with feven fpines. 

1 8. The Mullas or Surmullet. The body flender; the head 
almoft four-cornered; the fin covering the gills with three 
fpines; fome of thefe have beards ; a fifh highly prized by the 
Romans, and ftill confidered as a very great delicacy. 

19. The Trig ia y or the Gurnard. The body {lender; the 
head nearly four-cornered, and covered with a bony coat ; the 
fini covering the gills with feven fpines ; the pectoral and ventral 
fins ftrengthened with additional mufcles and bones, and very 
large for the animal's fize. 

20. The Coitus or Bull-head. The body wedge-like j the 
head flat and broader than the body; the fin covering the gills 
with fix fpines ; the head furnifhed with prickles, knobs, and 

21. The Zeus or Doree. The body oblong; the head large, 
bevile ; the fin covering the gills with feven rays ; the fins 
jagged ; the upper jaw with a loofe floating fkin depending in- 
to the mouth. 

22. The Trachipterus or Sabre. The body fword-like ; the 
head bevile; the fin covering the gills with fix fpines; the la- 
teral line ftraight) the fcales in a fingle order; a loofe fkin in 
both the jaws. 

23. The Gafterojteus or Stickleback. The body broadeft to- 
wards the tail; the head oblong ; the fin covering the gills with 
three fpines ; prickles ftarting backward before the back fins and 
the fins of the anus. 


24. The Silurus or Sbeat-fijh. The body oblong ; the head 
large ; the fin covering the gills from four to fourteen fpines ;. 
the leading bones or fpines in the back and pectoral fins toothed. 

25. The Mugil or Mullet. The body oblong ; the head al- 
moft conical ; the upper jaw with a furrow, which receives the 


prominence of the under ; the fin covering the gills with feven 

26. The Polynemus. The body oblong; the head with a beak ; 
the fin covering the gills with from five to feven fpines ; the 
bones that move the pectoral fins not articulated to thofe fins. 

27. The Tbeutys. The body almoft eliptical ; the head 
abruptly fhortened ; the fin covering the gills with five rays ; 
the teeth in a fingle row, clofe, ftrong, and even. 

28. The Elops or Sea-ferpent. The body {lender ; the head 
large; the fin covering the gills double, with thirty fpines, and 
armed externally with five bones refembling teeth. 



29. The Murxna or Eel. The body round and {lender; the 
head terminating in a beak ; the fin covering the gills with ten 
rays; the opening to the gills pipe fafhion, placed near the pec- 
toral fins j the fins of the back, the anus, and the tail, united in 

30. The Gymnotus or Carapo. The body broadeft on the 
back, like the blade of a knife; the head fmall ; the fin covering 
the gills with five rays ; the back without a fin ; two beards 
or filaments from the upper lip; an inhabitant of Brafil. 

31. The Anarhicas or Wolf-fifo. The body roundifh and 
(lender ; the head large and blunt ; the fore teeth above and be- 
low conical ; the grinding teeth and thofe in the palate round ; 
the fin covering the gill has fix rays. 

32. The Stromateus. The body oblong; the head fmall; 
the teeth moderately fharp ; the fin covering the gills with five 
or fix rays. 

33. The dmmodytes or Launce. The body flender and roundifh; 
the head terminated by a beak ; the teeth of a hair-like finenefs ; 
$he fin covering the gills with feven rays. 



34. The Lepadogafler. The body wedge-like ; the head ob- 
long, forwarder than the body, flattim, the beak refembling 
that of a duck; the pectoral fins double, two on each fide; the 
ventral fins joined together ; a kind of bony breaft-plate be- 
tween the pecloral fins ; the fin covering the gills with five 
rays ; the opening to the gills pipe fafhion. 

35. The Gadus or Cod-fijk. The body oblong ; the head 
wedge-like ; the fin covering the gills with feven rays ; feveral 
back and anal fins. 


36. The Plemonecles or Flumide. The body eliptical ; the 
head fmall ; both eyes on one fide of the head ; the fin covering 
the giils with from four to feven rays. 

37. The Ecbeneis or Sucking-fifn. The body almoft wedge- 
like, moderately round; the head broader than the body; the 
fin covering the gills with ten rays ; an oval breaft-plate, 
ftreaked in form of a ladder, toothed. 

38. The Lipidopus or the Garter-fijh. The body fword-like; 
the head lengthened out ; the fins covering the gills with feven 
rays; three fcales only on the whole body; two in the place of 
the ventral fins ; the third from that of the anus. 


39. The Loricaria. The body crufted over ; the head broad 
with ab^ak; no teeth; the fin covering the gills with fix rays, 

40. The dtherlna or Atherine. The body oblong; the head 
of a middling fize; the lips indented ; the fin covering the gills 
with fix rays; the line on the fides refembling a filver band. 

41. The Salmo or Salmon. The body oblong ; the head a lit- 
tle fharp; the fin covering the gills from four to ten rays; the 
Jaft fin on the back, without its correfpondent mufcles, fat. 


S PINX3U S FI S HE S. 381 

"'VmfSir ' 

42. The Fiftularla. The body angular, in form of afpindle; 
the head pipe fafhiqr&ijath a beak ; the fin covering the gills 
with feven rays ; t^frridcr jaw covering the upper. 

43. The Efexor Pike. The body round; the head with a 
beak ; the under jaw pierced longitudinally with fmall holes ; the 
fin covering the gills with from feven to twelve rays. 

44. The Argentina or Argentine, The body a little round 
and {lender; the head with. a beak, broader than the body; the 
fin covering the gills with eight rays; a fpurious back fin. 

45. The Clupea or Herring. The body a little oblong ; the 
head with a fmall beak; the fin covering the gills with eight rays. 

46. The Exocetas or Flying-fjb. The body oblong ; the head 
almoft three-cornered ; the fin covering the gills with ten rays; 
the pectoral fins placed big]}, and as long as the whole body; the 
back fin at the extremity of the back. 

47. The Cyprinus or Carp. The body elongated, almoft 
round; the head with a fmall beak ; the hinder part of the bone 
covering the gills, marked with a crefcent; the fin covering the 
gills with three rays. 

48. The Colitis or Loach, The body oblong ; almoft equally 
broad throughout; the head fmall, a little elongated; the eyes 
in the hinder part of the head; the fin covering the gills from 
four to fix rays ; the covers of the gills clofed below. 

49. The Ami a or Bonito. The body round and flender ; the 
head, forehead, and breaft, without fkin; the fin covering the 
gills with twelve rays j two beards from the nofe. 

50. The Mormyrus. The body oblong ; the head elongated ; 
the fin covering the gills with a finale ray ; the opening to the 
gills is linear, and has no bone covering them. 

Such is the fyftem of mr. Gouan ; by reducing to which any 
fifh that offers, we can know its rank, its affinities, and partly 
its anatomy, all which make a confiderable part in its natural 
hiftory. But, to fhow the ufe of this fyftem ftill more appa- 
fently, fuppofe I meet with a fifh, the name to me unknown, of 


Which I defire to know fomething more. The way is, firft, to 
fee whether it be a cartilaginous fifh, which may be known by 
its wanting fins to open and ihut the gills, which the cartilagi- 
nous kinds are wholly without. If I find that it has them, then 
it is a fpinous fifh: and, in order to know its kind, I examine its 
fins, whether they be prickly or foft: I find them foft; it is 
therefore to be ranked among the foft-finned fifties. I then ex- 
amine its ventral or belly fins, and finding that the fifh has 
them, I look for their fituation, and find they lie nearer to the 
tail than the pectoral fins. By this I find the animal to be a 
foft-finned abdominal fifh. Then to know which of the kinds 
of thefe fimes it is, I examine its figure and fhape of its head, 
I find the body rather oblong ; the head with a fmall beak ; the 
lower jaw likeafaw; the fin covering the gills with eight 
rays. This animal muft therefore be the herring, or one of that 
family, fuch as the pilchard, the fprat, the mad, or the anchovy. 
To give another inftance: Upon examining the fins of a fifh to 
me unknown, I find them prickly j I then look for the fituation 
of the ventral fins ; I find them entirely wanting : this then 
muft be a prickly-finned apodal fifli. Of this kind there are but 
three ; and by comparing the fifh with the defcription, I find it 
either of the trichurus kind, the fword fifh, or the gilt head. 
Upon examining alfo its internal ftru6ture, I mail find a very 
great fimilitude between my fifh and that placed at the head of 
the family. 


Of Spincus Ftjhes in general. 

HAVING given a method by which fpinous fimes may 
be diftinguifhed from each other, the hiftory of each in 
particular might naturally be expected to follow: but fuch a 
diftinct account of each would be very difgufting, from the un- 
avoidable uniformity of every defcription. The hiftory of any 
one of this clafs very much refembles that of all the reft: they 


breathe air and water through the gills ; they live by rapine, 
each devouring fuch animals as its mouth is capable of admit- 
ting; and they propagate, not by bringing forth their young alive, 
as in the cetaceous tribes, nor by diftincl: eggs, as in the generality 
of the cartilaginous tribes, but by fpawn, or peas, as they are ge- 
nerally called, which they produce by hundreds of thoufands. 
Thefe are the leading marks that run through their whole hiftory, 
and which have fo much fwelled books with tirefome repetition. 

It will be fufficient therefore to draw this numerous clafs into 
one point of view, and to mark how they differ, from the former 
clafTes ; and what they poffefs peculiarly ftriking, fo as to dif- 
tinguifh them from each other. The firft objecl: that prefents 
itfelf, and that by which they differ from all others, are the bones. 
Thefe, when examined but flightly, appear to be entirely folid; 
yet, when viewed more clofely, every bone will be found hollow, 
and filled with a fubftance lefs rancid and oily than marrow. 
Thefe bones are very numerous, and pointed ; and as in quadru- 
peds, are the props or flays to which the mufcles are fixed, which 
move the different parts of the body. 

The number of bones in all fpinous fifhes of the fame kind, 
is always the fame. It is a vulgar way of fpeaking, to fay, that 
fifhes are at fome feafons more bony than at others ; but this 
fcarce requires a contradiction. It is true, indeed, that fifh are 
at fome feafons much fatter than at others : fo that the quantity 
of flefh being diminimed, and that of the bones remaining the 
fame, they appear to increafe in number, as they actually bear a 
greater proportion. 

All fifn of the fame kind, as was faid, have the fame number 
of bones : the fkeleton of a fifli, however irregularly the bones 
may fall in our way at table, has its members very regularly 
difpofed; and every bone has its fixed place, with as much pre- 
cifion as we find in the orders of a regular fabric. But then 
fpinous fifh differ in the number of bones, according to the fpe- 
cies; for fome have a greater number of fins, by which they 
move in the water. The number in each is always in propor- 
tion to the number and fize of thefe fins : for every fifh has a 


regular apparatus of bones and mufcles, by which the fins are! 
moved ; and all thofe fi fti, where they are numerous or large, 
muft of confequence be confiderably bony. Indeed, in the 
larger fim, the quantity of flefh is fo much, and the bones them- 
felves are fo large, that they are eafily fcen and feparated: but 
in the fmaller kinds with many fins, the bones are as numerous 
as in the great ; yet being fo very minute, they lurk almoft in 
every part of the flefh, and are dangerous as well as trouble- 
fome to be eaten. In a word, thofe fifh which are large, fat, 
and have few fins, are found to be the lead bony; thofe which 
are fmall, lean, and have many fins, are the moft bony of all 
others. Thus, for inftance, a roach appears more bony than a 
carp, becaufe it is leaner and fmaller; and it is actually more 
bony than an eel, becaufe it has a greater number of fins. 

As the fpinous fim partake lefs of the quadruped in their 
formation than any others, fo they can bear to live out of their 
own element a fhorter time. In general, when taken out of the 
water, they teftify their change, by panting more violently, and 
at clofer intervals, the thin air not fumi filing their gills the pro- 
per play ; and in a few minutes they expire. Some, indeed, 
are more vivacious in air than others ; the eel will live feveral 
hours out of water ; and the carp has been known to be fatten- 
ed in a damp cellar. The method is, by placing it in a net, well 
wrapped up in wet mofs, the mouth only out, and then hung up 
in a vault. The fim is fed with white bread and milk ; and the 
net now and then plunged into the water. The animal, thus ma- 
naged, has been known not only to live for a fortnight, but to 
"row exceedingly fat, and of a fuperior flavour. From this it 
would feem, that the want of moifture in the gills, is the chief 
caufe of the death of thefe animals ; and could that be fuppliedj 
their lives might be prolonged in the air, almoft as well as in 
their own element. 

Yet it is impoiiible to account for the different operations of 
the fame element, upon animals, that, to appearance, have the 
fame conformation. To fome fiflies, bred in the fea, frefh-water 
is immediate deftrucYion : on the other hand, fome fifties that 
live in our lakes and ponds, cannot bear the fait- water. Whence 

S P I N O U S F I S H E S. 385 

this difference can arife, is not eafy to be accounted for. The 
faline quality of the water cannot properly be given as the caufe; 
fmce no fiihes imbibe any of the fea's faltnefs with their food, or 
in rcfpiration. The fiefh of all fifhes is equally frefh, both in 
the river and at the fa! ted depths of the ocean; the fait of the 
element in which they live, no way mixing with their conftitu- 
tion. Whence then is it that animals will live only there ; and 
will quickly expire, when carried into frefh water ? It may pro- 
bably arife from the fuperior weight of the fea-water. As from 
the great quantity of fait diflblved in its compofition, it is much 
heavier than frefh-water, fo it is probable it lies with greater 
force upon the organs of refpiration, and gives them their proper 
and neceflary play : on the other hand, thofe fifh which are ufed 
only to frefh water, cannot bear the weight of the faline fluid, 
and expire, in a manner fuftocated in the groflhefs of the ftrange 

But though there are fome tribes that live only in the fea, and 

others only in frefh-water, yet there are fome whofe organs are 

equally adapted to either element ; and that fpend a part of their 

feafon in one, and a part in the other. Thus the falmon, the 

{had, the fmelt and the flounder, annually quit their native 

ocean, and come up our rivers to depofit their fpawn. This 

feems the moft important bufmefs of their lives; and there is no 

danger which they will not encounter, even to the furmounting 

precipices, to find a proper place for the depofition of their future 

offspring. The falmon upon thefe occasions, is feen to afcend 

rivers five hundred miles from the fea; and to brave not only 

the danger of various enemies, but alfo to fpring up cataracts as 

high as an houfe. As foon as they come to the bottom of the 

torrent, they feem difappointed to meet the obftruction, and 

fwim fome paces back : they then take a view of the danger 

that lies before them, furvey it motionlefs for fome minutes, 

advance, and again retreat; till at laft fummoning up all their 

force, they take a leap from the bottom, their body ftraight, and 

ftrongly in motion; and thus moft frequently clear every 

obftru&ion. It fometimes happens, however, that they want 

ftrength to make the leap ; and then, in our fiflieries, they are 

VOL. III. 3 C 


taken in their defcent. But this is one of the fmalleft dangers 
that attend thefe adventuring animals in their progrefs: num- 
berlefs are the methods of taking them; as well by the hcok, as 
by nets, bafkets, and other inventions, which it is not our bufinefs 
here to defctibe. Their capture makes in feveral countries, a 
great article of commerce; and being cured in feveral different 
manners, either by faking, pickling, or drying, they are fent to 
all the markets of Europe. 

As thefe mount up the rivers to depofit their fnawn, others, 
particularly the eel, defcend the frefh- water ftream, as Rcdi 
aflures us, to bring forth their young in the fea. About the 
month of Auguft, annually, thefe animals take the opportunity 
of the moft obfcure nights, and, when the rivers are flooded by 
accidental' rains, feek the ocean. When they have reached the 
fea, and produced their young, for they are viviparous, they 
again afcend the flream, at different times, as opportunity offers, 
or as the feafon is favourable or ternpeftuous. Their pafTage 
begins ufually about the end of January, and continues till 
towards the end of May, when they are taken in the river Arno 
by millions, and fo finall that a thoufand of them goes to a pound. 
There is nothing more certain, than, that they defcend into our 
own rivers after floods, in great abundance, and are thus caught 
in nets to very great advantage. They are porfeffed alfo of a 
power of climbing over any obftacle; for by applying their 
glutinous and flimy bodies to the furface of the object they 
defire to fur mount, they can thus creep up locks, weirs, and 
every thing that would prevent their afcending the current of 
the ftream. 

But the length of the voyage performed by thefe fifties, is 
fport, if compared with what is annually undertaken by fome 
tribes, that conftantly refide in the ocean. Thefe are known to 
take a courfe of three or four thoufand miles in a feafon ; ferving 
for prey to whales, fharks, and the numerous fiocks of water- 
fowl, that regularly wait to intercept their progrefs. Thefe 
may be called fim of pafTage, and bear a ftrong analogy to birds 
of paffage, both from their focial difpofition, and the immenfity 
of their numbers. Of this kind are the cod, the haddock, the 


y *' * 

whiting, the mackarel, the tunny, the herring and the pilchard. 
Other fifh live in our vicinity, and refide on our coafts all the 
year round ; or keep in the depths of the ocean, and are but 
feldom feen : but thefe, at dated feafons, vifit their accuftomed 
haunts with regular certainty, generally returning the fame 
week in the fuccecding year, and often the fame day. 

The ftated returns, and the regular progrefs of thefe fifli of 
pafTage, is one of the moft extraordinary circumfrances in ail 
the hiftory of nature. What it is that impels them to fuch 
diftant voyages, what directs their pafTage, what fupports them 
by the way, and what fometirnes prompts them to quit, for 
feveral feafons, one fhore for another, and then return to their 
accuftomed harbour, are queftions that curiofity may afk, but 
philofophy can hardly refolve. We muft difmifs enquiry, fatis- 
ned with the certainty of the fa&s. 

The cod feems to be the foremoft of this wandering tribe; and 
is only found in our northern part of the world. This animal's 
chief place of refort is on the banks of Newfoundland, and the other 
fand banks that lie off Cape-Breton. Thatextenfive fiat feems 
to be no other than the broad top of a fea-mountain, extending for 
above five hundred miles long, and furrounded with a deeper fea. 
Hither the cod annually repair in numbers beyond the power of 
calculation, to feed on the quantity of worms that are to be 
found there in the fandy bottom. Here they are taken in fuch 
quantities, that they fupply Europe with a confiderable fhare 
of provifion. The Englifh have ftages erefted all along the ihore 
for faking and drying them ; and the fifhermen, who take them 
with the hook and line, which is their method, draw them in as fart 
as they can throw out. This immenfe capture, however, makes 
but a very fmall diminution, when compared to their numbers ; 
and when their provifion there is exhaufted, or the feafon for pro- 
pagation returns, they go off to the polar feas, where they de- 
pofit their roes in full fecurity. From thence want of food 
forces them, as foon as the nrft more fouthern feas are open, to 
repair fouthward for fubfiftence. Nor is this fifh an unfrequent 
vifitant upon our own fhores : but the returns are not (b regular^ 

388 A N H I S T O R Y O F 

nor does the capture bear any proportion to that at Newfound-* 

The haddock, the whiting, and the mackarel, are thought 
by fome, to be driven upon our coafts, rather by their fears than 
their appetites ; and it is to the purfuit of larger fifties, we owe 
their welcome vifits. It is much more probable, that they come 
for that food, which is found in more plenty near the fhore, than 
farther out at fea. One thing is remarkable; that their migra- 
tions feem to be regularly conducted. The grand fhoal of had- 
docks, that comes periodically on the Yorkfhire coafts, appeared 
there in a body on the tenth of December, 1766; and exactly 
on the fame day, in the following year. This fhoal extended 
from the fhore near three miles in breadth, and in length for more 
than forty. The limits of a fhoal are precifely known ; for if 
the fifhermen put down their lines at the diftance of more than 
three miles from fhore, they catch nothing but dog fifh; a 
proof that the haddock is not there. 

But of all migrating fifh, the herring and the pilchard take 
the moft adventurous voyages. Herrings are found in the great- 
eft abundance, in the higheft northern latitudes. In thofe inac- 
ceflible feas, that are covered with ice for a great part of the year, 
the herring and the pilchard find a quiet and fure retreat from 
all their numerous enemies : thither neither man, nor their ftill 
more deftru&ive enemy, the fin fifh, or the cachalot, dares 
to purfue them. The quantity of infect food which thofe feas 
fupply, is very great; whence, in that remote fituation, defend- 
ed by the icy rigour of the climate, they live at cafe, and mul- 
tiply beyond exprefiion. From this moft defirable retreat, An- 
derfon fuppofes, they would never depart, but that their num- 
bers render it neceflary for them to migrate; and, as with bees 
from a hive, they are compelled to feek for other retreats. 

For this reafon, the great colony is feen to fet out from the icy 
fea about the middle of fuch winter ; compofed of numbers, that 
if all the men in the world were to be loaded with herrings, they 
would not carry the thoufandth part away. But they no fooner 
leave their retreats, but millions of enemies appear to thin their 

S P I N O U S F I S H E S. 389 

'Squadrons. The fin-fifa and the cachalot fwallov/ barrels at a 
yawn; the porpoife, the grampus, the ihark, and the whole nu- 
merous tribe of dog-fi/h, find them an eafy prey, and defift 
from making war upon each other ; but ftill more, the unnum- 
bered flocks of fea-fowl that chiefly inhabit near the pole, watch 
the outfet of their dangerous migration, and fpread extenfive 

In this exigence, the defencelefs emigrants find no other fafety 
but by crouding clofer together, and leaving to the outmoft bands 
the danger of being the firft devoured; thus, like ftieep when 
frighted, that always run together in a body, and each finding fome 
protection of being but one of many that are equally liable to 
invafion, they are feen to feparate into fhoals, one body of which 
moves to the weft, and pours down along the coafts of America, 
as far fouth as Carolina, and but feldom farther. In Chefapeak 
Bay, the annual inundation of thefe fiih is fo great, that they 
cover the fliores in fuch quantities as to become a nuifance. 
Thofe that hold more to the eaft, and come down towards 
Europe, endeavour to fave themfelves from their mercilefs pur- 
fuers, by approaching the firft fhore they can find ; and that 
which firft offers in their defcent, is the coaft of Iceland, in the 
beginning of March, Upon their arrival on that coaft, their 
phalanx, which has already fufFered confiderable diminutions, 
is, neverthelefs, of amazing extent, depth, and clofenefs, cover- 
ing an extent of fhore, as large as the ifland itfelf. The whole 
water feems alive ; and is feen fo black with them to a great 
diftance, that the number feems inexhauftible. There the por- 
poife and tne {hark continue their depredations; and the birds 
devour what quantities they pleafe. By thefe enemies the her- 
rings are cooped up into fo clofe a body, that a fhovel, or any 
hollow veflel put into the water, takes them up without farther 

That body which comes upon our coafts, begins to appear 
off the Shetland Ifles in April. Thefe are the forerunners of 
the grand fhoal which defcends in June ; while its arrival is 
cafily announced, by the number of its greedy attendants, the 


ganuet, the gull, the fliark, and the porpoife. When the main 
body is arrived, its breadth and depth is fuch, as to alter the very 
appearance of the ocean. It is divided into diffincl: columns, of 
five or fix miles in length, and three or four broad; while the 
water before them curls up, as if forced ou-t of its bed. Some- 
times they fink for the fpace of ten or fifteen minutes, then life 
again to the furface ; and in bright weather, reflecl: a variety of 
fplendid colours, like a field befpangled with purple, gold and 
azure. The fifhermen are ready prepared to give them a pro- 
per reception; and, by nets made for the occafion, they take 
fometimcs above two thoufand barrels at a fingle draught. 

From the Shetland Ifle?, another body of this great army, 
where it divide?, goes off to the weltern coafts of Ireland, where 
they meet with a (econd neceffity of dividing. The one takes 
to the Atlantic, where it. is foon loft in that extend ve ocean ^ 
the other pafles into the Irifh fca, and furnimes a very confider- 
able capture to the natives. 

In this manner, the herrings expelled from their native feas, 
feck thofe bays and fhores where they can find food, and the beft 
defence againft their unmerciful purfuers of the deep. In gene- 
ral, the moft inhabited fhores are the places where the larger 
animals of the deep are leafl fond of purfuing ; and thefe are 
chofen by the herring as an afylum from greater dangers. Thus 
along the coafts of Norway, the German (Lores, and the north- 
ern fhores of France, thefe animals are found punctual in their 
vifitations In thefe different places, they produce their young, 
which, when come to fome degree of maturity, attend the general 
motions. . After the deft.ru6r.ion of fuch numbers, the quantity 
that attempts to return is but fmall ; and Anderfon doubts 
whether they ever return. 

Such is the account given of the migration of thefe fiilie?, 
by one, who, of all others, was beft acquainted with their hif- 
tory : and yet many doubts arife, in every part of the migration. 
The moft obvious which has been made, is, that though fuch 
numbers periih in their defcent from the north, yet, in com- 
parifon to thofe that furvive, the amount is trifling : and it is 

S PINO US FI S HE .S. 391 

Cuppof-d, that of thofe taken by man, the proportion is not one 
-to a million. Their regularly leaving the fnore alfo at a ftated 
time, would imply that they are not in thcfe vifits under the 
impulfe of neceffity. In fa6t,^ there feems one circumftance, 
that mows thefe animals governed by a choice with refpecl to 
the mores they pitch upon; and not blindly drove from one 
ihore to another. What I mean, is, their fixing upon fome 
fliores for feveral feafons, or, indeed, for feveral ages together ; 
and, after having regularly vifited them every year, then capri- 
doufly forfakiog them, never more to return. The firfr. great 
bank for herrings was along the fliores of Norway. Before the 
year 1584, the number offhips from all parts of Europe that 
reforted to that fliore, exceeded fome thoufands. The quantity 
of herrings that were then affembled there, was fuch, that a 
man who fliould put a fpear in the water, as Olaus Magnus 
aflerts, would fee it ftand on end, being prevented from falling. 
But foon after that period, thefe animals were feen to defert the 
Norway mores, and took up along the German coafr, where 
the Hanfe-towns drove a very great trade by their capture and 
fale; but, for above a century, the herrings have, in a great 
meafure, forfaken them ; and their greateft colonies are feen in 
the Britifh channel, and upon the Irifh fhores. It is not eafy 
to affign a caufe for this feemingly capricious defertion: whe- 
ther the number of their finny enemies increafing along the 
northern coafts, may have terrified the herring tribe from their 
former places of refort ; or whether the quantity of food being 
greater in the Britifli channel, may not allure them thither, is 
not eafy to determine. 

The pilchard, which is a fim differing little from the her- 
ring, makes the coaft of Cornwall its place of principal refort. 
Their arrival on that coaft is foon proclaimed by their attendants, 
the birds, and the larger fifties ; and the whole country prepare 
to take the advantage of this treafure, providentially thrown 
before them. The natives fometimes enclofe a bay of feveral 
miles extent with their nets, called feines. To direct them in 
their operations, there were fome years ago (but I believe they 
are difcontinued) feveral men placed on eminences near fre fhore, 


called huers^ who, with brooms in their hands, gave fignals 
where the nets were to be extended, and where the flioals of 
fiflies lay: this they perceived by the colour of the water, 
which a/Turned a tincture from the flioals beneath. By thefe 
means, they fometimes take twelve or fifteen hundred barrels of 
pilchards at a draught ; and they place them in heaps on the fhore. 
It often happens, that the quantity caught exceeds the fait or 
the utenfils for curing them; and then they are carried off* to 
fcrve for the purpofes of manure. This fifhery employs not on- 
ly great numbers of men at fea, training them to naval affair?, 
but alfo numbers of women and children at land, in fairing and 
curing the fifh ; in making boat?, nets, ropes and cafks, for the 
purpofcs of taking or fitting them for fale. The poor are fed 
with the fuperfluity of the capture ; the land is manured with the 
offals : the merchant finds the gain of commiilion, and honeft 
commerce; the fifherman a comfortable fubfiftence from his 
toil. " Ships," fays dr. Borlafe, " are often freighted hither with 
fait, and into foreign countries with the fifli, carrying off at the 
fame time a part of our tin. The ufual produce of the number 
of hogflieads exported for ten years, from 1747 to 1756 inclu- 
five, amounted to near thirty thoufand hogfheads each year : eve- 
ry hogfhead has amounted, upon an average, to the price of one 
pound, thirteen fbillings and three pence. Thus the money paid 
for pilchards exported, has annually amounted to near fifty thou- 
fand pounds." 

Whence thefc infinite numbers are derived, {till remains ob- 
fcure ; but it will increafe our wonder to be told, that fo fmall a 
fifh as the ftickleback, which is feldom above two inches long, 
and which one would think could eafily find fupport in any water, 
is yet obliged to colonize, and leave its nativefens infearchof new 
habitations. Once every feventh or eighth year, amazing fhoals of 
thefe appear in the river Welland, near Spalding, and come up the 
dream, forming one great column. They are fuppofbd to be 
multitudes collected in fome of the fens, till, overcharged with 
numbers, they are periodically obliged to migrate. An idea may 
be had of their numbers, when we are informed, that a man, em- 
ployed by a farmer to take them, for the purpofe of manuring 


his grounds, has got, for a confiderable time, four (hillings a 
day, by felling them at a halfpenny a bufhel 1 

Thus we fee the amazing propagation of fifties along our 
own coafts and rivers; but their numbers bear no proportion to 
the vaft quantities found among the iflands of the Indian ocean. 
The inhabitants of thefe countries are not under the neceffity 
even of providing inftruments for fifhing ; it is but going down 
to the (here, and there the fifh are found in great numbers in the 
plafhes that ftill continue to have water in them. In fome of 
thefe places the quantity is fo great, that they are left in fnoals, 
on thofe fwamps, dried up by the fun, and their putrefaction 
contributes to render the country unhealthful. 

This power of increafing in thefe animals, exceeds our idea, 
as it would, in a very fhort time, outftrip all calculation. A 
fmgle herring, if fuffered to multiply Unmolefted and undimi- 
nifhed for twenty years, would fliew a progeny greater in bulk 
than ten fuch globes as that we live upon. But happily the ba- 
lance of nature is exactly preferved; and their confumption is 
equal to their fecundity. For this reafon we are to confider the 
porpoife, the fhark, or the cod-fifh, not in the light of plunderers 
and rivals, but of benefactors to mankind. Without their affif- 
tance, the fea would f)on become overcharged with the burden 
of Its own productions ; and that element, which at prefent dif- 
tributes health and plenty to the fhore, would but load it with 

In the propagation of all fiih, fome degree of warmth feems 
abfolutely neceflliry, not only to their prefervation, but to the 
advancement of their pofterity. Their fpawn is always dcpofited 
in thofe places where the fun-beams may reach them, either at the 
bottom of (hallow (hores, or floating on the furface iii deeper 
waters. A fmall degree of heat anfwers all the purpofes of in- 
cubation, and the animal ifTues from the egg in its (rate of perfect 
formation, never to undergo any fucceeding change. 

Yet (till, I have fome doubts whether mod (h come from 
the egg completely formed. We know that in all the frag tribe, 
and many of the lizard kind, they are produced from the ego; in. 

VOL. III. 3 D 


an imperfect form. The tadpole, or young frog, with its enor* 
mous head and flender tail, are well known; a fpecies of the 
lizard alfo, which is excluded from the Ihell without legs, only 
acquires them by degrees, and not till after fome time does it put 
off its ferpent form. It is probable that fome kinds of fifh in 
like manner fuffcr a change; and though it be too inconfiderable 
to ftriks the fifherrnan or the inattentive fpe&ator, yet it makes 
a very material difference to the naturalift, and would perhaps 
difarrange his moft favourite fyftems. A flight alteration in the 
fins or bones that cover the gills, would overturn the whole fabric 
cf the mod applauded ichthyologift; and yet, as I obferved, it is 
inoft probable that thcfe minute alterations often take place. 

As a proof of this, during the month of July, there appear 
near Greenwich innumerable fhoals of fmall fifties which are 
known to the Londoners by the name of white bait. It is uni- 
verfelly agreed that they are the young of fome fifh; they are 
never feen but at this time of the year, and never found to have 
any roe, acircumftance that proves their not being come to ma- 
turity. The quantity is amazing ; and the fifh that produces 
them in fuch numbers muft be in plenty, though it is not yet 
known what that fifli is, as they correfpond with no other fpecies 
whatever. They moft refemble the fmelt in form ; and yet they 
want a fin, which that animal is never without. They cannot 
be the bleak, as they are never found in other rivers, where the 
bleak breeds in great abundance. It is moft probable, therefore, 
that they are the young of fome animal, not yet come to their 
perfect form, and therefore reducible to no prefent fyftem. 

The time that fpinous fifhes continue in the pea is in propor- 
tion to the fize of the kind. It is a rule that chiefly holds 
through nature, that the larger the animals are, the longer they 
continue before exclufion. This, I fay, holds generally through 
all nature ; though it is not eafy to affign a caufc for fo well 
known a truth. Ic may probably be, that as all large bodies 
take a longer time to grow hot than fmall ones, fo the larger the 
egg, the longer influence of vital warmth it requires to reach 
through all its recefles, and to unfold the dormant fprings that 
wait to be put in motion. 


The manner in which the eggs of fi flies are impregnated is 
wholly unknown. All that obviouily offers is, that in ponds 
the fexes are often feen together among the long grafs at the 
edge of the water; that there they feem toftruggle; and that 
during this time they are in a ftate of fuffering; they grow 
thin; they Jofe their appetite, and their flefh becomes flabby; 
the fcales of fome grow rough, and they lofe their luftre. On 
the contrary, when the time of coupling is over, their appetite 
returns; they re-afTume their natural agility, and their fcales 
become brilliant and beautiful. 

Although the ufual way with fpinous fifties is to produce by 
fpawn ; yet there are fome, fuch as the eel and the blenny, that 
are known to bring forth their young alive. Bowlker, who has 
written a treatife upon fifh ing, feems to determine the quedion 
relative to the viviparous production of eels, upon the authority 
of one or two credible witnefles. An eel, opened in the prefence 
of feveral perfons of credit, was found to have an infinite number 
of little creatures clofely wrapped up in a lump, about the fize 
of a nutmeg, which, being put into a bafon of water, foon fepa- 
rated, and fvvam about : yet frill, whether thefe may not have 
bsen worms generated in the animal's body, remains a doubt; 
for there are fcarce any fifties that are not infefted with worms 
in that manner. 

With refpecl: to the growth of fifties, it is obferved, that among 
carps, particularly the firft year, they grow to about the fize of 
the leaf of a willow-tree; at two years, they are about four 
inches long. They grow but one incb more the third feafon, 
which is five inches. Thofe of four years old are about fix 
inches ; and feven after the fifth. From that to eight years old 
they are found to be large in proportion to the goodnefs of the 
pond, from eight to twelve inches. With regard to fea fifh, the 
fiihermen allure us, that a fifh muft be fix years old before it is 
fit to be ferved up to table. They inftance it in the growth of 
a mackarel. They affure us that thofe a year old are as large as 
one's finger ; that thofe of two years, are about twice that length ; 
at three and four years, they are that foiall kind of mackarel that 


have neither melts nor roes ; and between five and fix, they arc 
thofe full grown fifh that are ferved up to our tables. In the fame 
manner, with regard to flat fifhes, they tell us that the turbot 
and barbie at one year are about the fize of a crown piece ; the 
fecond year as large as the palm of one's hand; and at the fifth 
and fixth year, they are large enough to be ferved up to table. 
Thus it appears that fifh are a confiderable time in coming to 
their full growth, and that they are a long time deftroyed before 
it comes to their turn to be deftroyers. - 

All fifh live upon each other, in fome ftate of their exiftence. 
Thofe with the largefr mouths, attack and devour the larger 
kinds ; thofj whofe mouths are lefs, lie in wait for the fmaller 
fry ; and even thefe chiefly fubfift upon fpawn. Of thofe which 
live in the ocean of the fpinous kinds, the dorado is the moft vora- 
cious. This is chiefly found in the tropical climates; and is at 
once the moil active, and the mofc beautiful of the finny region- 
It is about fix feet long ; the back all over enamelled with fpots 
of a bluifli green and filver ; the tail and fins of a gold colour; 
and all have a brilliancy of tint, that nothing but Nature's pen- 
cil can attain to : the eyes are placed on each fide of the head, 
large and beautiful, furrounded with circles of fhining gold. In 
the feas where they are found, thefe fifh are always in motion, and 
play round mips in full fail, with cafe and fecurity : for ever ei- 
ther purfuing or purfued, they are feen continually in a ftate of 
warfare ; either defending themfelves againft the fhark, or dart- 
ing after the fmaller fifhes. Of all others, the flying-fifh moft 
abounds in thefe feas ; and as it is a finall animal, feldom grow- 
ing above the fize of a herring, it is chiefly fought by the dorado. 
Nature has furnifhed each reflectively with the powers of purfuit 
and evafion. The dorado being above fix feet long, yet not 
thicker than a falmon, and furnimed with a full complement of 
fins, cuts its way through the water with amazing rapidity : on 
the other hand, the flying-fifh is furnifhed with two pair of fins, 
longer than the body, and thefe alfo moved by a ftronger fet of 
mufcles than the other. This equality of power feems to furnifh 
one of the moft entertaining fpc&acles thofe feas can exhibits 

Trait: des Peches par Monficur Dahamcl. Sed. 3. p, 


S P I N O U S F I S H E S. 397 

The efforts to feize, on the one fide, and the arts of efcaping on 
the other, are perfectly amufing. The dorado is feen, upon this 
occafion, darting after its prey, which will not leave the water, 
while it has the advantage of fwimming, in the beginning of the 
chace. But, like an hunted hare, being tired at laff, it then has 
recourfe to another expedient for fafety, by flight. The long fins, 
which began to grow ufelefs in the water, are now exerted in a 
different manner, and different direction to that in which they 
were employed in fwimming: by this means the timid little ani- 
mal rifes from the water, and flutters over its furface, for two or 
three hundred yards, till the mufcles employed in moving the 
wings, are enfeebled by that particular manner of exertion. By 
this time, however, they have acquired a from power of renewing 
their efforts in the water, and the animal is capable of proceeding 
with fome velocity by fwimming: ftill, however, the active 
enemy keeps it in view, and drives it again from the deep ; till, 
at length, the poor little creature is feen to dart to morter dif- 
tances, to flutter with greater effort, and to drop down at laft in- 
to the mouth of its fierce purfuer. But not the dorado alone, all 
animated nature feems combined againft this little fim, which 
feems pofieffed of double powers, only to be fubjecl: to greater 
.dangers. For though it mould efcape from its enemies of the 
deep, yet the tropic bird and the albatrofs are for ever upon the 
wing to feize it. Thus purfued in either element, it fometirnes 
feeks refuge from a new enemy: and it is not unfrequent for 
whole fhoals of th^m to fall on fhip-board, where they furnifh 
man with an object of ufelefs curiofity. 

The warfare in frefh water is not carried on with fuch de- 
ftru6tive activity; nor are the inhabitants of that element fo 
numerous. It would feem that there is fomething more favour- 
able to the fecundity of fifties in the ocean, than in an element 
lefs impregnated with fait. It has been the opinion of fome 
philofophers, that all fim are natives of that great refervoir; 
and that only colonies have been fent up rivers, either through 
accident, or the neceffity of procuring fubfiftence. They have 
been led to this opinion by the fuperior fecundity of fea-fifh, 
which breed twenty to one 5 as well as by their fupcriority in 


ftrength and fize, over thofe of the fame kind found in lakes and 
rivers. This is a matter too remotely fpeculative to be worth 
purfuing j but certain it is, that, in frefh water, fifties feem to 
abate much of their courage and rapacity ; purfue each other 
with lefs violence, and feem to be lefs powerfully actuated by 
all their appetites. The greedinefs with which fea-fifti devour 
the bait is prodigious, if compared with the manner they take it 
In frefh water. The lines of fuch fifhermen as go off to fea, are 
coarfe, thick, and clumfy, compared to what are ufed by thofe 
who fiih at Jand. Their baits are feldom more than a piece of 
a fifti, or the flefh of fome quadruped, fiuck on the hook in a 
bungling manner; and fcarce any art is employed to conceal the 
deception. But it is other wife in frefh water; the lines muft 
often be drawn to an hair-like finenefs; they muft be tinctured 
of the peculiar colour of the ftream ; the bait muft be formed 
with the niceft art, and even, if poflible, to exceed the perfection 
of nature : yet ftill the fifties approach it with diffidence, and 
often fwim round it with difdain. The cod, on the banks of 
Newfoundland, the inftant the hook, which is only baited with 
the guts of the animal laft taken, is dropped into the water, darts 
to it at once, and the fiftiermen have but to pull up as faft as they 
throw down. But it is otherwife with thofe who fifti in frefh 
waters, i they muft wait whole hours in fruitlefs expectation j 
and the patience of a fifoerman is proverbial among us. 

This comparative neglect of food, which is found in all the 
tribes of frefh water-fifties, renders them lefs turbulent and lefs 
definitive among each other. Of all thefe the pike is the moft 
active and voracious ; and our poets, whofe bufmefs it is to ob- 
fcrve the furface of nature, have called it the tyrant of the watry 
plain. In facl, in proportion to its ftrength and celerity, 
the pike does fome rnifchi:f ; but what are its efforts compared 
to thofe of the cachalot or the fliark ! they refemble the petty 
depredations of a robber, put in competition with the ravages 
of a conqueror ! However, the pike will attack every fifti lefs 
than itfclf ; and it is fometimes feen choaked, by attempting to 
f wallow fuch as are too large a morfel. It is immaterial of what 
fpecies the animal it purfues appears to be, whether of another 


or its own ; all are indifcriminately devoured ; fo that every fifii 
owes its fafety to its minutenefs, its celerity, or its courage: 
nor does the pike confine itfelf to feed on fifli and frogs ; it will 
draw down the water-rat and the young ducks, as they are 
fwimming about. Gefner tells us of a mule that {looped to 
drink in the water, when a famifhed pike, that was near, feized 
it by the nofe, nor was it di fen gaged till the beaft flung it on 
fhore. So great is their rapacity, that they will contend with 
the otter for his prey, and even endeavour to force it from him. 
For this reafon it is dreaded by all other fifli ; and the fmall ones 
fhow the fame uneafmefs and deteftation at the prefence of their 
tyrant, as the little birds do at the fight of an hawk or an owl. 
When the pike lies afleep near the furface, as is frequently the 
cafe, the lefTer fifh are often obferved to fwim around it in vail 
numbers, with a mixture of caution and terror. 

The other tribes of frefh-water fifh are much inferior to this 
animal in courage and rapacity : they chiefly fubfirr. upon worms 
and infects, purfuing them at the bottom, or jumping after them 
to the furface of the water. In winter alfo, their appetite feems 
entirely to forfake them ; at leaft they continue in fo torpid a ftate, 
that few baits will tempt them to their deftrucrion. At that 
feafon, they forfake the {hallow water, and feek thofe deep 
holes to be found in every river, where they continue for days 
together, without ever appearing to move. The cold feems to 
affect them ; for at that time they lie clofe to the bottom, where 
the water is moft warm, and feldcm venture out except the day 
be peculiarly fine, and the fhallows at the edges of the ftream 
become tepified by the powerful rays of the fun. Indeed, I have 
been afiured, that fome fifties may be rendered fo torpid by the 
cold, in the northern rivers, as to be frozen up, in the great 
mafles of ice, in which they continue for feveral months together, 
fecmingly without life or fenfation, the prifoners of congelation, 
and waiting the approach of a warmer fun, to reftore them at 
once to life and liberty. Thus that chearful luminary not only 
diilributes health and vegetation to the productions of the earth, 
but is ardently fought even by the gelid inhabitants of the water. 


As fifh are enemies one to another, fo each fpecies is infefted 
with worms of different kinds, peculiar to itfelf. The great 
fim abound with them ; and the little ones are not entirely free. 
Thefe troublefome vermin lodge themfelves either in the jaws, 
and the intefiines internally, or near the fins without. When 
fim are healthy and fat, they are not much annoyed by them ; 
but in winter, when they are lean or iickly, they then fuffer 
very much. 

Nor does the reputed longevity of this clafs fecure them from 
their peculiar diforders. They are not only affected by too much 
cold, but there are frequently certain difpofitions of the element 
in which they refide, unfavourable to ther health and propagation. 
Some ponds they will not breed in, however artfully difpofed for 
fupplying them with frefh recruits of water, as well as provifion, 
In fome feafons they are found to feel epidemic diforders, and are 
feen dead by the water-fide, without any apparent caufe: yet 
ftill they are animals of all others the mofr. vivacious, and they 
often live and fubfift upon fuch fubftances as are poifonous to 
the more perfect claiTes of animated nature. 

It is not eafy to determine whether the poifonous qualities 
which many of them are found to poiTefs, either when they 
wound our bodies externally, with their fpines, or when they are 
unwarily eaten at our tables, arifes from this caufe. That 
numbers of fifties inflict poifonous wounds, in the opinion of 
many cannot be doubted. The concurrent teftimony of man- 
kind, they think fufficient to contradict any reafonings upon this 
head, taken from anatomical inflection. The great pain that is 
felt from the fting given by the back fin of the weaver, bears no 
proportion to the fmallnefs of the inftru merit that inflicts the 
wound. How the poifon is preferved, or how it is conveyed 
by the animal, it is not in our power to perceive ; but its actual 
exigence has been often attefbd by painful experience. In this 
inftance we muft decline conjecture, fatisfied with hiftory. 

The fact of their being poifonous when eaten, is equally no- 
torious ; and the caufe equally infcrutible. My worthy friend 
doctor Grainger, who refided for many years at St. Chrifto- 

S P I N O U S F I S H E S. 401 

pher's, allured me, that of the fifh caught, of the fame kind, 
at one end of the ifland, fome were the beft and moft vvhole- 
fome in the world ; while others, taken at a different 'end, were 
always dangerous, and moft commonly fatal. We have a paper 
in the Philofophical Tranfa&ions, giving an account of the poi- 
fonous qualities of thofe found at New Providence, one of the 
Bahama iflands. The author there aflures us, that the greateft 
part of the fifh of that dreary coaft, are all of a deadly nature : 
their fmalleft effects being, to bring on a terrible pain in the 
joints, which, if terminating favourably, leaves the patient 
without any appetite for feveral days after. It is not thofe of 
the moft deformed figure, or the moft frightful to look at, that 
are alone to be dreaded : all kinds, at different times, are alike 
dangerous; and the fame fpecies which has this day ferved for 
nourimment, is the next, if tried, found to be fatal I 

This noxious quality has given rife to much fpeculation, and 
many conjectures. Some have fuppofed it to arife from the 
on thefe fhores eating of the machinel apple, a deadly vegetable 
poifon, that fometimes grows pendant over the fea ; but the 
quantity of thofe trees growing in this manner bears no propor- 
tion to the extenfive infection of the fifh. Labat has afcribed 
it to their eating the gaily fifh, which is itfelf moft potently 
poifonous; but this only removes our wonder a little farther 
back; for it may be afked, with as juft a caufe for curiofity r 
how comes the gaily fifh itfelf to procure its noxious qualities ? 
Others have afcribed the poifon of thefe fifhes to their feeding 
upon copperas beds : but I do not know of any copper mines 
found in America. In fhort, as we cannot defcribe the alembic 
by which the rattle-fnake diftils its malignity, nor the procefs 
by which the fcorpion, that lives among rofes> converts their 
fweets to venom, fo we cannot difcover the manner by which 
fifhes become thus dangerous; and it is well for us of Europe 
that we can thus wonder in fecurity. It is certain, that, with 
us, if fifhes, fuch as carp or tench, acquire any difagreeable 
flavour from the lakes in which they have been bred, this can be 
removed, by their being kept fome time in finer and better 
water: there they foon clear away all thofe difagreeable qualt- 



ties their flefh had contracted, and become as delicate as if they 
had been always fed in the moil cleanly manner. But this expe- 
dient is with us rather the precaution of luxury, than the effect of 
fear; we have nothing to dread from the noxious qualities of our 
fiih ; for all the animals our waters furniih are wholefome. 

Happy England ! where the fea furniihes an abundant and 
luxurious repaft, and the frefh waters an innocent and harmlefs 
paftime; where the angler in chearful folitude, ftralls by the 
edge of the ftream, and fears neither the coiled fnake, nor the 
.lurking crocodiles where he can retire at night, with his few 
trouts, to borrow the pretty defcription of old Walton, to fome 
friendly cottage, where the landlady is good, and the daughter 
innocent and beautiful; where the room is cleanly, with lavender 
in the fheets, and twenty ballads ftuck about the walls ! There 
he can enjoy the company of a talkative brother fportfman, have 
-his trouts drefled for fupper, tell tales, fing old tunes, or 
make a catch ! There he can talk of the wonders of nature with 
Jearned admiration, or find fome harmlefs fport to content him, 
and pafs away a little time, without offence to God, or injury 
tQ man ! 




Of the Divifion of Shell Fijh. 

IN defcribing the inhabitants of the water, a clafs of animals 
occur, that mankind, from the place of their refidence, have: 
been content to call fifti; but that naturalifts, from their forma- 
tion, have juftly agreed to be unworthy of the name. Indeed, 
the affinity many of this kind bear to the infect tribe, may very 
well plead for the hiftorian who ranks them rather as infects. 
However, the common language of a country muft not be flight- 
ly invaded; the names of things may remain, if the philofopher 
be careful to give precifion to our ideas of them. 

There are two clafFes of animals, therefore, inhabiting the 
water, which commonly receive the name of fifties, entirely dif- 
ferent from thofe we have been defcribing, and alfo very diftincl 
from each other. Thefe are divided by naturalifts into cruftace- 
ous and teftaceous animals : both, totally unlike fifties to appear- 
ance, feem to invert the order of nature ; and as thofe have their 
bones on the infide, and their mufcles hung upon them for the 
purpofes of life and motion, thefe, on the contrary, have all their 
bony parts on the out fide, and all their mufcles within. Not to 
talk myfterioufly all who have feen a lobfter or an oyfter, per- 
ceive that the fhells in thefe bear a ftrong analogy to the bones 
of other animals ; and that, by thefe fhells, the animal is fuftain- 
ed and defended. 

Cruftaceous fifti, fuch as the crab and the lobfter, have a fhell 
not quite of a ftony hardnefs, but rather refembling a firmcrilft, 
and in fome meafure capable of yielding. Teftaceous 


fuch as the oyfter or cockle, are furnimed with a fhell of a ftony 
hardnefs ; very brittle, and incapable of yielding. Of the crufta- 
ceous kinds are the lobfter, the crab, and the tortoife: of the 
teftaceous, that numerous tribe of oyfters, mufcles, cockles, and 
fea mails, which offer with infinite variety. 

The cruftaceous tribe feems to hold the middle rank between 
fifhes, properly fo called, and thofe fnail-like animals that re- 
ceive the name of teftaceous fifhes. Their mufcles are ftrong 
and firm, as in the former; their fhell is felf-produced, as among 
the latter. They have motion, and hunt for food with great 
avidity, like the former. They are incapable of fwimming, but 
creep along the bottom, like the latter : in fhort, they form the 
link that unites thefe two clafies, which feem fo very oppofite in 
their natures. 

Of teftaceous fifties we will fpeak hereafter. As to animals 
of the cruftaceous kind, they are very numerous, their figure of- 
fers an hundred varieties: but as to their nature, they are obvi- 
oufly divided into two very diftincl: kinds, differing in their habits 
and their conformation. The chief of one kind is the lobfter; 
the chief of the other, the tortoife. Under the lobfter we rank 
the prawn, the cray fifh, the fhrimp, the fea crab, the land crab, 
and all their varieties. Under the fea tortoife, the turtle, the 
iiawkfbill turtle, the land tortoife, and their numerous varieties. 

C HA P. II. 

Cruflaceous Animals of the Lobfter Kind. 

HOWEVER different in figure the lobfter and crab 
may feem, their manners and conformation are nearly 
the fame. With all the voracious appetites of fiflies, they are con- 
demned to lead an infecl: life at the bottom of the water ; and 
though preffed by continual hunger, they are often obliged to wait 
till accident brings them their prey. Though without any 
warmth in their bodies, or even without red blood circulating 


through their veins, they are animals wonderfully voracious. 
Whatever they feize upon that has life, is fure to perifli, though 
never fo well defended : they even devour each other : and, to 
increafe our furprize ftill more, they may, in fome meafure, be 
faid to eat themfelves ; as they change their fliell and their fto- 
mach every year, and their old ftomach is generally the firft 
morfel that ferves to glut the new. 

The lobfter is an animal of fo extraordinary a form, that thofe 
who firft fee it are apt to miftake the head for the tail ; but it 
is foon difcovered that the animal moves with its claws fore- 
moft; and that the part which plays within itfelf by joints, like 
a coat of armour, is the tail. The two great claws are the 
lobfter' s inftruments of provifion and defence; thefe, by opening 
like a pair of nippers, have great ftrength, and take a firm hold ; 
they are ufually notched, like a faw, which ftill more increafes 
their tenacity. Befide thefe powerful inftruments, which may 
be confidered as arms, the lobfter has eight legs, four on each 
fide ; and thefe, with the tail, ferve to give the animal its pro- 
greflive and fideling motion. Between the two claws, is the 
animal's head, very fmall, and furnifhed with eyes that feem 
like two black horny fpecks on each fide ; and thefe it has a 
power of advancing out of the focket, and drawing in at plea- 
fure. The mouth, like that of infects, opens the long way of 
the body; not crofsways, as with man, and the higher race of 
animals. It is furnifhed with two teeth for the comminution of 
its food ; but as thefe are not fufficient, it has three more in the 
ftomach ; one on each fide, and the other below. Between the 
two teeth there is a flefhy fubftance, in the fhape of a tongue. 
The inteftines confift of one long bowel, which reaches from 
the mouth to the vent ; but what this animal differs in from all 
others, is, that the fpinal marrow is in the breaft-bone. It is 
furnifhed with two long feelers or horns, that iffue on each fide 
of the head, that feem to correct the dimnefs of its fight, and ap- 
prize the animal of its danger, or of its prey. The tail, or that 
jointed inftrument at the other end, is the grand inftrument of 
motion ; and with this it can raife itfelf in the water. Under 
this we fee ufually lodged the fpawnin great abundance; every pea 


adhering to the next by a very fine filament, which is fcarceiy 
perceivable. Every lobfter is an hermaphrodite, and is fuppofed 
to be felf- impregnated ! The ovary, or place where the fpawn is 
firft produced, is backwards, toward the tail, where a red fub~ 
fiance is always found, and which is nothing but a clufter of peas, 
that are yet too fmall for exclufion. From this receptacle there 
go two canals, that open on each fide at the jointures of the fhell, 
at the belly; and through thefe pafTages the peas defcend to be 
excluded, and placed under the tail, where the animal preferves 
them from danger for fome time, until they come to maturity; 
when, being furnifhed with limbs and motion, they drop off* into 
the water. 

When the young lobftcrs leave the parent, they immediately 
feek for refuge in the fmalleft clefts of rocks, and in fuch like cre- 
vices at the bottom of the fea, where the entrance is but fmall, 
and the opening can be eafily defended. There, without feem- 
ing to take any food, they grow larger in a few weeks time, from 
the mere accidental fubftances which the water wafhes to their 
retreats. By this time alfo they acquire an hard, firm fhell, 
which furnifhes them with both oftenfive and defenfive armour. 
They then begin to iiTu^ from their fortrefies, and boldly creep 
along the bottom, in hopes of meeting with more diminutive 
plunder. The fpawn of fifh, the fmaller animals of their own 
kind, but chiefly the worms that keep at the bottom of the fea, 
fupply them with plenty. They keep in this manner clofe among 
the rocks, bufily employed in fcratching up the fand with their 
claws for worms, or furprifing fuch heedlefs animals as fall with- 
in their grafp : thus they have little to apprehend, except from 
each other ; for in them, as among fifties, the large are the moft 
formidable of all other enemies, to the frnall. 

But this life of abundance and fecurity is foonto have a moft 
dangerous interruption ; for the body of the lobfter ftill continu- 
ing toincreafe, white its fhell remains unalterably the fame, the 
animal becomes too large for its habitation, and imprifoned with- 
in the cruft that has naturally gathered round it, there conies on a 
neceffity of getting free. The young of this kind, therefore, that 
grow fafter, as I am allured by the fifhermen, change their fhell 


oftcncr than the old, who come to their fall growth, and who re- 
main in the fame fhell often for two years together. In general, 
however, all thefe animals Change their fhell once a year; and 
this is not only agnoft painful operation, but alfo fubjecls them 
to every danger. Their molting fealbn is generally about the 
beginning of fumrner, at which time their food is in plenty, and 
their ftrength and vigour in the higheft perfection. But foon all 
their acti vity ceafes ; they are feen forfaking the open parts of the 
deep, and feeking fome retired fituation among the rocks, or 
foirie outlet where they may remain in fafety from the attacks of 
their various enemies. For fome days before their change, the 
animal difcontinues its ufual voracioufnefs ; it is no longer feen 
laboriously harrowing up the fand at the bottom, or fighting 
with others of its kind, or hunting its prey; it lies torpid and 
motionlefs, as if in anxious expectation of the approaching 
change. Juft before carting its {hell, it throws itfelf upon its 
back, ftrikes its claws againft each other, and every limb feems 
to tremble ; its feelers are agitated, and the whole body is in 
violent motion: it then fwells itfelf in an unufual manner, and 
at laft the {hell is feen beginning to divide at its junctures ; par- 
ticularly it opens at the junctures of the belly, where, like a pair 
of jumps it was before but feemingly united, ft alfo feems 
turned iniide out, and its ftomach comes away with its (hell. 
After this, by the fame operation, it difengages itfelf of the claws, 
which burft at the joints ; the animal, with a tremulous motion, 
cafting them off as a man would kick off a boot that was too 
big for him. 

Thus, in a fhort time, this wonderful creature finds itfelf at 
liberty, but in fo weak and enfeebled a irate, that it continues for 
feveral hours motionlefs, Indeed, fo violent and painful is the ope- 
ration, that many of them die under it; and thofe which furvive, 
are in fuch a weakly ftate for fome time, that they neither take 
food, nor venture from their retreats. Immediately after this 
change, they have not only the foftnefs, bat the timidity of a 
worm. Every animal of the deep is then a powerful enemy, 
which they can neither efcape nor oppofe ; and this in fact, is the 
time when the dog-fifh, the cod, and the ray, devour them by 


hundreds. But this ftate of defencelefs imbecility continues for 
a very fhort time ; the animal, in lefs than two days, is feen 
to have the (kin that covered its body grown almoft as hard as 
before ; its appetite is feen to increafe ; and, ftrange to behold ! 
the firft objecT: that tempts its gluttony, is its own ftomach, 
which it fo lately was difengaged from. This it devours with 
great eagernefs ; and fome time after eats even its former {hell. 
In about forty-eight hours, in proportion to the animal's health 
and flrength, the new fhell is perfectly formed, and as hard as 
that which was but juft thrown afide. 

To contribute to the fpeedy growth of the fliell, it is fuppof- 
ed by fome, that the lobfler is fupplied with a very extraordinary 
concretion within its body, that is converted into the fhelly 
fubftance. It is a chalky fubftance, found in the lower part of 
the ftomach of all lobfters, improperly called crabs' eyes, and 
fold under that title in the {hops. About the time the lobfter 
quits its fhell, the teeth in its ftomach break thefe ftones to 
pieces, and the fluids contained therein diflblve them. This fluid, 
which ftill remains in the new ftomach, is thought to be replete 
with a petrifying quality, proper for forming a new (hell: how- 
ever, the concreting power that firft formed thefe, {hews a fuf- 
ficient power in the animal to produce alfo the {hell : and it is 
going but a fhort way in the caufes of things, when we attejnpt 
to explain one wonder by another. 

When the lobfter is completely equipped in its new {hell, it 
then appears how much it has grown in the fpace of a very few 
days ; the dimenfions of the old {hell being compared with thofe 
of the new, it will be found that the creature is increafed above a 
third in its fize; and like a boy that has outgrown his clothes, 
it feems wonderful how the deferted {hell was able to contain fo 
great an animal as entirely fills up the new. 

The creature thus furniflied, not only with a complete cover- 
ing, but alfo a greater {hare of ftrength and courage, ventures 
more boldly among the animals at bottom; and not a week 
pafles, that, in its combats, it does not fufFer fome mutilation. A 
joint, or even a whole claw, is fometimes fnapped off in thefe en- 


counters. At certain feafons cf the year thefe animals never 
meet each other without an engagement. In thefe to come off 
with thelofs of a leg, or even a claw, is confidered as no great 
calamity; the victor carries off the fpoil to feaft upon at his lei- 
fure, while the other retires from the defeat to wait for a thorough 
repair. This repair it is not long in procuring. From the 
place where the joint of the claw was cut away, is feen in a moft 
furprifing manner to burgeon out the beginning of a* new claw* 
This, if obferved, at firft, is fmalland tender, but grows, in the 
fpace of three weeks, to .be almoft as large and as powerful as 
the old one. I fay almoft as large, for it never arrives to the full 
fize ; and this is thereafon we generally find the claws of the lob- 
fters of unequal magnitude* 

After what lias been thus defcribed, let us paufe a little, to re- 
flect on the wonders this extraordinary creature offers to our ima- 
gination ! An animal without bones on the infide^ yet furnifhed 
with a ftomach capable of digefHng the hafdeft fubftances, the 
{hells of mufcles, of oyfters, and even its own; an animal gain- 
ing a new ftomach and a new ihell at Hated intervals ! Furnifh- 
ed with the inftruments of generation double ia both fexes ; and 
yet with an apparent incapacity of uniting ! Without red blood 
circulating through the body, and yet apparently vigorous and 
active ! But moft flrange of all, an animal endowed with a vital 
principle that furnifhes out fiich limbs as have been cut away; 
and keeps continually combating it, though in conftant repair to 
renew its engagements ! Thefe are but a fmall part of the won- 
ders of the deep, where Nature fports without a fpectator ! 

Of this extraordinary, yet well known animal, there are many 
varieties, with fome differences in the claws, but little in the ha- 
bits or conformation. It is found above three feet long; and if 
we may admit the flirimp and the prawn into the clafs, though 
unfurniflied with claws, it is feen not above an inch. Thefe all 
live in the water, and can bear its abfence for but a few hours. 
The fhell is black when taken out of the water, but turns red 
by boiling. The moil common way of taking the lobfler, is in 
a bafket, or pot, as the fifhermen call it, made of wicker-work, 
in which they put the bait, and then throw it to the bottom of the 


fea, in fix or ten fathom water. The lobfters creep into this for 
the fake of the bait, but are not able to get out again. The ri- 
ver craw-fifh differs little from the lobfter, but that the one will 
live only in frefh water, and the other will thrive only in the fea. 

The crab is an animal found equally in frefh and fait water ; 
as well upon land as in the ocean. In fhape it differs very much 
from the lobfter, but entirely reiembles it in habits and conforma- 
tion. The' tail in this animal is not fo apparent as in the former, 
being that broad flap that feems to cover a part of the belly, and 
when lifted, difcovers the peas or fpawn, fituated there in great 
abundance. It refembles the lobfter in the number of its claws, 
which are two; and its legs, which are eight, four on each fide. 
Like the lobfter, it is a bold voracious animal ; and fuch an en- 
mity do crabs bear each other, that thofe who carry them for fale 
to market, often tie their claws with ftrings to prevent their 
fighting and maiming each other by the way. In fhort, it re- 
fembles the lobfter in every thing but the amazing bulk of its 
body, compared to the fize of its .head, and the length of its in- 
teftines, which have many convolutions. 

As the crab, however^ is found upon land, as well as in the 
water, the peculiarity of its fituattbn produces a difference in its 
habitudes, which it is proper to defcribe. The land crab is found 
in fome 'of the wanner regions of Europe, and in great abun- 
dance in all the tropical climates in Africa and America. They 
are of various kinds, and endued with various properties; fome 
being healthful, delicious, and nourifhing food ; others, poifon- 
ous or malignant, to the laft degree; lorne are not above 
half an inch broad, others are found a fot over ; fome are of 
-A dirty brown, and others beautifully mottled. That animal 
called the violet crab of the Caribbee Iflands, is the moft noted 
both for its ihape, the delicacy of its fiefh, and the fmgula- 
rity of its manner, 

The violet crab fomewhat refembles two hands cut through 
the middle, and joined together ; for each fide looks like four fin- 
gers, and the two nippers or claws refemble the thumbs. All 
the reft f the body is covered with a ftiell as large as a man's' 


hand, and bunched in the middle, on the fore part of which 
there are two long eyes, of the fize of a grain of barley, as tranf- 
parent as cryftal, and as hard as horn. A little below thefe is 
the moiKh, covered with a fort of barbs, under which there are 
two broad fharp teeth, as white as fnow. They are not placed^ 
as in other animals, crofsways, but in the oppofite direction, 
not much unlike the blades of a pair of fciffars. With thefe teeth 
they can eafily cut leaves, fruits, and rotten wood, which is their 
ufual food. But their principal instrument for cutting and feiz- 
ing their food, is their nipper?, which catch fuch an hold, that 
the animal lofes the limb, fooner than its grafp, and is often 
feen fcampering off, having left its claws ftill holding faft upon 
the enemy. The faithful claw feems to perform its duty, and 
keeps for above a minute fattened upon the finger while the crab 
is making off.* In fact, it lofes no great matter by leaving 
a leg or an arm, for they foon grow again, and the animal is 
found as perfect as before, 

This, however, is the leaft furprizing part of this creature's 
hiftory : and what I am going to relate, were it not as well 
known, and as confidentially confirmed as any other circum- 
ftance in natural hiftory, might well ftagger our belief. Thefe 
animals live not only in a kind of orderly fociety, in their re- 
treats in the mountains, but regularly once a year, march down 
to the fea-fide in a body of fome millions at a time. As they 
multiply in great numbers, they choofe the month of April or 
May to begin their expedition j and then fally out by thoufands 
from the (lumps of hollow trees, from the clefts of rocks, and 
from the holes which they dig for themfelves under the furface 
of the earth. At that time the whole ground is covered with 
this band of adventurers ; there is no fetting down one's foot, 
without treading upon themf . The fea is their place of def- 
tination, and to that they direct their march with right-lined 
precifion. No geometrician could fend them to their defined 
ftation by a fhorter courfe ; they neither turn to the right nor left, 
whatever obftacles intervene ; and even if they meet with an houfe, 

* Brown's Jamaica, p. 423. 

t Labat, Voyage aux Ifles Fran^oifes, vol. ii. p. 22 1 4 


they will attempt to fcale the walls, to keep the unbroken tenor 
of their way. But though this be the general order of their route, 
they upon other occafions are compelled to conform to the face of 
the country; and if it be interfered by rivers, they are then feen 
to wind along the courfe of the ftream. The proceffion fets for-, 
ward from the mountains with the regularity of an army under 
the guidance of an experienced commander. They are commonly 
divided into three battalions ; of which, the firft con lifts of the 
ftrongeft and boldeft males, that, like pioneers, march forward to 
clear the route, and face the greateft dangers. Thefe are often 
obliged to halt for want of rain, and go into the moft convenient 
encampment till the weather changes. The main body of the 
army is compofed of females, which never leave the mountains 
till the rain is fet in for foins time, and then defcend in regular 
battalia, being formed into columns of fifty paces broad and three 
miles deep, and fo clofe that they almoft cover the ground. Three 
or four days after this the rear-guard follows ; a ftraggling undif- 
ciplined tribe, confirming of males and females, but neither fo ro- 
buft or fo numerous as the former. The night is their chief time 
of proceeding ; but if it rains by day, they do not fail to profit by 
the occafion ; and they continue to move forward in their flow 
uniform manner. When the fun mines, and is hot upon the fur- 
face of the ground.,, they then make an univerfal halt, and wait 
till the cool of the evening. When they are terrified, they march 
back in a confufed diforderly manner, holding up their nippers, 
with which they fometimes tear off a piece of the fkin, and then 
leave the weapon where they inflicted the wound. They even 
try to intimidate their enemies, for they often clatter their nippers 
together, as if it were to threaten thofe that come todifturb them. 
But though they thus ftrive to be formidable to man, they are 
much more fo to each other; for they are poffefTed of one moft 
uiiibcial property, which is, that if any of them by accident is 
maimed in fuch a manner as to be incapable of proceeding, the 
reft fall upon and devour it on the fpot, and then purfue their 

When, after a fatiguing march, and efcaping athoufand dan- 
s 3 for they are fometimes three months in getting to the ihorc ? 


they have arrived at their deftined port, they prepare to caft their 
fpawn. The peas are as yet within their bodies, and not ex- 
cluded, as is ufual in animals of this kind, under the tail ; for the 
creature waits for the benefit of the fea water to help the delive- 
ry. For this purpofe, the crab has no fooner reached the fhore, 
than it eagerly goes to the edge of the water, and lets the waves 
wajfh over its body two or three times. This leems only a pre- 
paration for bringing their fpawn to maturity; for without far- 
ther delay, they withdraw to feek a lodging upon land: in the 
mean time, the fpawn grows larger, is excluded out of the body, 
> and flicks to the barbs under the flap, or more properly the tail. 
This bunch is feen as big as a hen's egg, and exadtly reiembling 
the roes of herrings. In this ftate of pregnancy, they once more 
feek the fliore for the laft time, and fhaking off their fpav/n into 
the water, leave accident to bring it to maturity. At this time 
whole fhoals of hungry fifh are at the fliore in expectation of this 
annual fupply ; the fea to a great diftance feems black with them : 
and about two thirds of the crabs eggs are immediately devoured 
by thefe rapacious invaders. The eggs that efcape are hatched 
under the fand; and foon after, millions at a time, of thefe little 
crabs, are feen quitting the fliore, and flowly travelling up to the 

The old ones, however, are not fo acYive to return: they have 
become fo feeble and lean, that they can hardly creep along, and 
the flefh at that time changes its colour. The moil of them, 
therefore, are obliged to continue in the flat parts of the country 
till they recover, making holes in the earth, which they cover at 
the mouth with leaves and dirt, fo that no air may enter. There 
they throw off their old fhells, which they leave, as it were, quite 
whole, the place where they opened on the belly being unfeen. 
At that time they are quite naked, and almoft without motion for 
fix days together, when they become fo fat as to be delicious food. 
They have then under their ftomachs four large white ftones, 
which gradually decreafe in proportion as the (hell hardens, anJ 
when they come to perfection, are not to be fouud. It is at that 
time that the animal is feen flowly making its way back ; and all 
this is moft commonly performed in the fpacc of fix weeks. 


This animal, when pofTeffed of its retreats in the mountains, 
is impregnable; for only fubfifting upon vegetables, it feldom 
ventures out; and its habitation being in the moll inacceffible 
places, it remains for a great part of the feafon in perfect fecurity. 
It is only when impelled by the defire of bringing forth its young, 
and when compelled to defcend into the flat country, that it is 
taken. At that time the natives wait for its defcent in eager 
expectations, and deftroy thoufands ; but difregarding the bodies, 
they only feek for that fmall fpawn which lies on each fide of the 
ilomach within the {hell, of about the thicknefs of a man's thumb. 
They are much more valuable upon their return after they have 
ca{^ their (hell; for being covered with a fkin refembling foft 
parchmentj alrnoft every part, except the ftomach, maybe eaten. 
They are taken in their holes, by feeling for them in the ground 
with an instrument : they are fought after by night, when on 
their journey, with flambeaux. The inftant the animal per- 
ceives itfelf attacked, it throws itfelf on its back, and with its 
claws pinches moft terribly whatever it happens to fallen on. 
But the dextrous crab-catcher takes them by the hinder legs in 
fuch a manner, that its nippers cannot touch him, and thus he 
throws it into his bag. Sometimes, alfo, they are caught when 
they take refuge at the bottom of holes, in rocks by the fea-fide ? 
by letting a llick at the mouth of the hole, which prevents their 
getting out ; and then foon after the tide coming, enters the hole ? 
and the animal is found upon its retiring drowned in its retreat. 

Thefe crabs are of confiderable advantage to the natives ; and 
the flaves very often feed entirely upon them. In Jamaica, where 
they are found in great plenty, they are confidered as one of the 
greateft delicacies of the place. Yet Hill, the eating of them is 
attended with fome danger; for even of this kind many are found 
poifonous, being fed, as it is thought, upon the machinel apple; 
and whenever they are found under that noxious plant, they are 
always rejected with caution. It is thus with almolt all the pro- 
ductions of thofe luxurious climates; however tempting they 
may be to the appetite, they but too often are found deflructive ; 
and fcarce a delicacy among them that does not carry its own 



The defcent of thefe creatures for fuch important purpofes 
deferves our admiration ; but there is an animal, of the lobfter 
kind, that annually oefcends from the mountains in like man- 
ner, and for purpofes {till more important and various. Its de- 
icent is not only to produce an offspring, but to provide itfelf 
f a covering ; not oply to fecure a family, but to furnifli an houfe. 
The animal I mean is the foldier-crab, which has fome fimilituds 
to the lobfter, if divelred^of its fhell. It is ufually about four 
inches Ions;, has no fhell behind, but is covered clown to the 
tail with a rough (kin, terminating in a point. It is, however, 
armed with ilrong, hard nippers before, like the lobfter , and one 
of them is as thick as a man's thumb, and pinches moft power- 
fully. It is, as I faid, without a fhell to any part except its 
nippers ; but what Nature has denied this animal, it takes care 
to fupply by art ; and taking poiTefHon of the defertea (hell of 
fome other animal, it refides in it, till, by growing too large 
for its habitation, it is under a neceffity of change. It is a na- 
tive of the Weft-India iflands ; and, like the former, it is feen 
every year defcending from the mountains to the fea-fhore, to 
depofit its fpawn, an& to provide itfelf with a new fhell. This 
is a moft buftling time with it, having ib many things to do; 
and, in fact, very bufy it appears. It is very probable that its 
firft care, is to provide for its offspring before it attends to its 
own wants ; and it is thought, from the number of little fhell* 
which it is feen examining, that it depoilts its fpawn in them, 
which thus is placed in perfect fecurity till the time of exclu- 

However this be, the foldier is in the end by no means un- 
mindful of itfelf. It is ftill feen in its old {hell, which it appears 
to have cohfiderably outgrown; for a part of the naked body 
is feen at the mouth of it, which the habitation is too fmall to 
hide. A fhell, therefore, is to be found large enough to cover 
the whole body ; and yet not fo large as to be unmanageable and 
unwieldy. To anfwer both thefe ends is no eafy matter, nor 
the attainment of a flight inquiry. The little foldier is fe-n bufi- 
ly parading the fhore along that line of pebbles and (hells that is 
formed by the extremeft wave ; (till, however, dragging its old 


incommodious habitation at its tail, unwilling to part with one 
fhell, even though a troublefome appendage, till it can find 
another more convenient. It is feen flopping at one fhell, turn- 
ing it and paffing it by, going on to another, contemplating that 
for a while, and then flipping its tail from its old habitation to 
try on the new. This alfo is found to be inconvenient ; and it 
returns to its old fhell again. In this manner it frequently 
changes, till at laft it finds one light, .roomy, and commodious ; 
to this it adheres, though the fhell be fometimes fo large as to 
hide the body of the animal, claws and all*. 

Yet it is not till after many trials, but many combats alfo, 
that the foldier is thus completely equipped; for there is often a 
conteft between two of them for fome well-looking favourite 
fhell, for which they are rivals. They both endeavour to take 
polTefHon; they flrike with their claws; they bite each other, 
till the weakeft is obliged to yield, by giving up the objecT: of 
difpute. It is then that the vik>r immediately takes pofleffion, 
and parades in his new conqueft three or four times. back and 
forward upon the ftrand, before his envious antagoni.ft. 

When this animal is taken, it fends forth a feeble cry, endea- 
vouring with its nippers to feize the enemy; which, if it faftens 
upon, it will fooner die than quit its grafp. The wound is very 
painful, and not eafily cured. For this reafon, and as it is not 
much efteemed for its flefh, it is generally permitted to return 
to its old retreat in the mountains in fafety. There it continues 
till the neceffity of changing once more, and the defire of produc- 
ing an offspring, expofe it to frefh dangers the year enfuing. 

* Pere du Teftrc. 



Of the Tortoife and its Kinds; 

HAVING defcribed the lobfter and the crab as animals iii 
fome meafure approaching to the infect tribes, it will ap- 
pear like injuftice to place the tortoife among the number, which, 
from its ftrength, its docility, the warm red blood that is circu- 
lating in its veins, deferves to be ranked even above the fifties. 
But as this animal is covered, like the lobfler, with a fhell, as it 
is of an amphibious nature, and brings forth its young from the 
egg without hatching, we muft be content to degrade it among 
animals that in every refpecl: it infinitely furpafles. 

Tortoifes are ufually divided into thofe that live upon landj 
and thofe that fubfift in the water; and ufe has made a diftinclion 
even in the name ; the one being called tortoifes, the other tur- 
tles. However, Sebahas proved that all tortoifes are amphibious; 
that the land tortoife will live in the water; and that the fea tur- 
tle cart be fed upon land. A land tortoife was brought to him 
that was Caught in one of the canals of Amfterdam, which he 
kept for half a year in his houfe, where it lived very well con- 
tented in both elements. When in the water, it remained with 
its head above the furface; when placed in the fun, it feemed de- 
lighted with its beams, and continued immoveable while it felt 
their warmth. The difference^ therefore, in thefe animals, arifes 
rather from their habits than their conformation ; and, upon ex- 
amination, there will be lefs variety found between them, than 
between birds that live upon land^ and thofe that fvvim upon the 

Yet, though nature feems to have made but few distinctions 
among thefe animals, as to their conformation^ yet, in their ha- 
bits, the)j are very diflimilar; as thefe refult from the different 
qualities of their food, and the different forts of enemies they 
have to avoid or encounter. I will therefore exhibit their figure 
and conformation under one common defcription, by which their 



flight differences will be more obvious ; and then I will give a 
icparate hrftory of the manners of each, as naturalifts and travel- 
lers have taught us. 

All tortoifes, in their external form, pretty much refemble 
each other ; their outward covering being compofed of two great 
fhells, the one laid upon the other, and only touching at the 
edge s : hov/ever, when we come to look clofcr, we mall find 
that the upper {hell is compofed of no lefs than thirteen pieces, 
which are laid flat upon the ribs, like the tiles of an houfe, by 
which the fhell is kept arched and fupported. The {hells both 
above and below that, which feem, to an inattentive obferver, 
to make each but one piece, are bound together at the edges by 
very flrong and hard ligaments, yet with fome fmall lhare of 
motion. There are two holes at either edge of this vaulted body ; 
one for a very fmall head, moulders and arms, to peep through ; 
the other, at the oppofite edge, for the feet and the tail. Thefe 
(hells the animal is never difengaged from : and they ferve for 
its defence againit every creature but man. 

The tortoife has but a fmall head, with no teeth; having only 
two bony ridges in the place, ferrated and hard. Thefe ferve to 
gather and grind its food ; and fuch is the amazing ftrength of 
the jaws, that it is impofTible to open them where they once have 
fattened. Even when the head is cut off, the jav/s ftill keep their 
hold j and the mufcles, in death, preferve a tenacious rigidity. 
Indeed, the animal is poflefled of equal ftrength in all other parts 
of its body : the legs, though fhort, are inconceivably ftrong ; and 
torpid as the tortoife may appear, it has been known to bear 
five men {landing upon its back, with apparent eafe and uncon- 
cern. Its manner of going forward is by moving its legs one 
after the other ; and the claws with which the toes are furnifhsd, 
fink into the ground like the nails of an iron {hod wheel, and 
affift its progreffion. 

With refpe& to its internal parts, not to enter into minute ana- 
tomical difquifitions, it may not be improper to obferve, that 
the blood circulates in this animal as in fome cartilaginous 
fiflies, and fomething iu the manner of a child in the womb. 


The greateft quantity of the blood paffes directly from the vena 
cava into the left ventricle of the heart, which communicates 
with the right ventricle by an opening ; while the auricles only 
receive what the ventricles iecrn incapable of admitting. Thus 
the blood is driven by a very fhort pafTage through the circula- 
tion ; and the lungs feem to lend only occafional afliftance. From 
this conformation the animal can fubfift for fome time, without 
ufmg the lungs, or breathing ; at leaft, the lungs are not fo ne- 
ceflary an inftrument for driving on the circulation as with us. 

Such is the general ftru6hire of this animal, whether found 
to live by land or water. With regard to the differences of thefe 
animals, the land tortoife, from its habits of making ufe of its 
feet in walking, is much more nimble upon land than the fea 
turtle: the land tortoife, if thrown upon its back, by rocking and 
balancing its body, like a child rocking in a cradle, at lad turns 
itfelf upon its face again; but the turtle, when once turned, 
continues without being able to move from the fpot. In com- 
paring the feet alfo of thefe animals, the nails upon the toes of 
one that has been long ufrd to fcratch for fubfiftence upon land, 
are blunt and worn ; whil-j thofe that have only been employed 
in fwimming, are fharp and long, and have more the firnilitude 
of fins. The brain of the land tortoife is but fmall ; and yet it is 
three times as large as that of the turtle. There is a difference 
alfo in the fhape of their eggs, and in the panaga by which they 
are excluded; for, in the land tortoife, the paflage is fo narrow, 
that the egg conforms to the fhape of the aperture, and though 
round when in the body, yet becomes much more oblong than 
thofe of fowls, upon being excluded ; other wife they would ne- 
ver be able to pafs through the bony canal by which they are 
protruded : on the contrary, the pafTage is wider in the turtle, 
and therefore its eggs are round. Thefe are the moft ftriking 
diftinclions ; but that which is moft known, is their fize ; the 
land tortoife often not exceeding three feet long, by two feet 
broad; the fea turtle being fometimes from five to feven feet 
long. The fize, however, is but a fallacious dii%i6tion; fince 
land tortoid-s, in fome parts of India, grow to a very great mag- 
nitude ; though probably not, as the ancients affirm, big enough 
for a fingle fbell to ferve for the covering of an houfe. 


But if the different kinds of tortoifes are not fufficiently dif- 
tinguifhed by their figure, they are very obvioufly diftinguifha- 
ble by their methods of living. The land tortoife lives in holes 
dug in the mountains, or near marmy lakes : the fea turtle in 
cavities of rocks, and extend ve paftures at the bottom of the 
fea. The tortoife makes ufe of its feet to walk with, and bur- 
row in the ground ; the turtle chiefly ufes its feet in fwimming, 
or creeping at bottom. 

The land tortoife is generally found, as was obferved above, 
from one foot to five feet Jong, from the end of the fnout to the 
end of the tail ; and from five inches to a foot and a half acrofs 
he back. It has a fmall head, fomewhat refembling that of a 
ferpent; an eye without the upper lid ; the under eye-lid ferving 
to cover and keep that organ in fafety. It has a ftrong, fcaly 
tail, like the lizard. Its head the animal can put out and hide 
at pleafure, under the great penthoufe of its fhell ; there it can 
remain fecure from all attacks ; there, defended on every fide, 
it can fatigue the patience of the moft formidable animal of 
the forefl, that makes ufe only of natural flrength to deftroy it. 
AS the tortoife lives wholly upon vegetable food, it never feeks 
the encounter ; yet, if any of the fmaller animals attempt to in- 
vade its repofc, they are fure to fufrer. The tortoife, impregna- 
bly defended, is furnifhed with fuch a ftrength of jaw, that, 
though armed only with bony plates inftead of teeth, wherever 
it fattens, it infallibly keeps its hold, until it has taken out the 


Though peaceable in itfelf, it is formed for war in another 
refpe&, for itfeems almoft endued with immortality. Hardly 
any thing can kill it ; the depriving it of one of its members, is but 
a flight injury ; it will live though deprived of the brain ; it will 
live though deprived of its head. Redi informs us, that in making 
fome experiments upon vital motion, he, in the beginning of the 
month of November, took a land tortoife, made a large opening 
in its Ikull, and drew out all the brain, warned the cavity, fo as 
not to leave the fmalleft part remaining, and then, leaving the 
hole open, fet the animal at liberty. Notwithftanding this the 
tortoife marched away without fceming to have received the 


fmalleft injury; only it (hut the eyes, and never opened 
them afterwards. Soon after, the hole in the fkull was feen to 
clofe; and, in three days, there was a complete fkin, covering 
the wound. In this manner the animal lived, without a brain, 
for fix months ; walking about unconcernedly, and moving its 
limbs as before. But the Italian philofopher, not fatisficd with 
this experiment, carried it ftill farther; for he cut off the head, 
and the animal lived twenty-three days after its feparation from 
the body. The head alfo continued to rattle the jaws, like a 
pair of caftanets, for above a quarter of an hour. 

Nor are thefe animals lefs long-lived, than difficult in deftroy- 
ing. Tortoifes are commonly known to exceed eighty years 
old ; and there was one kept in the archbifhop of Canterbury's 
garden, at Lambeth, that was remembered above an hundred and 
twenty. It was at laft killed by the feverity of a froft, from 
which it had not fufficiently defended itfelf in its winter retreat, 
which was a heap of fand, at the bottom of the garden. 

The ufual food of the land tortoife feems not fo nouri filing as 
to fupply this extraordinary principle of vitality. It lives upon 
vegetables in its retreats in the mountains or the plain ; and 
feldom makes its prey of fnails or worms, but when other food 
is not found in grateful plenty. It is fond alfo of fruits ; and 
when the foreft affords them, is generally found not far from v/here 
they grow. As it can move but flowly, it is not very delicate 
in the choice of its food; fo that it ufually fills itfelf with what- 
ever offers. Thofe that are kept in a domeftic ftate, v/ill eat any 
thing; leaves, fruits, corn, bran or graft. 

From the fmallnefs of its brain, and the flownefs of its motion, 
it obvioufly appears to be a torpid, heavy animal, requiring reft 
and fleep ; and in fa6t, it retires to fome cavern to fleep for the 
winter. I already obferved that its blood circulates through the 
heart by a fhort paflage ; and that it does not, as anatomifts ex- 
prefs it, go through the great circulation. With us and qua- 
drupeds the blood goes from the veins to the heart ; from the 
heart it is fent to be fpread over the lungs; from the lungs it 
jrcfurns to the heart again; and from thence it goes to the arteries, 


to be diftributed through the whole body. But its paflage in 
the tortoife is much fhorter ; for, from the veins it goes to the 
heart; then leaving the lungs entirely out of its courfe, it takes 
a fhort cut, if I may fo fay, into the beginning of the arteries, 
which fend it round the animal frame. From hence we fee the 
lungs are left out of the circulation ; and confequently, the ani- 
mal is capable of continuing to live without continuing to 
breathe. In this it refembles the bat, the ferpent, the mole, and 
the lizard; like them it takes up its dark refidencefor the win- 
ter; and, at that time, when its food is no longer in plenty, it 
happily becomes infenflble to the want. Nor is it unmindful to 
prepare its retreat, and make it as convenient as po.lible; it is 
fometimes buried two or three feet in ths ground, with its hole 
furni flied with mofs, grafs, and other fubftances, as well to keep 
the retreat warm, as to ferve for food, in cafe it fhould prema- 
turely wake from its ftate of ftupefaction. But it muft not be 
fuppofed, that, while it is thus at reft, it totally difcontinues to 
breathe j on the contrary, an animal of this kind, if put into a 
clofe veflel, without air, will foon be ftifled; though not fo rea- 
dily as in a ftate of vigour and activity. 

From this dormant ftate the tortoife is awakened by the genial 
return of fpring; and is thought not to be much wafted by its 
long confinement. To animals that live an hundred and fifty 
years, a fleep of fix months is but as the nap of a night. All the 
actions of thefe long-lived creatures feem formed upon a fcale 
anfwering the length of their exiftence ; their flumbers are for a 
feafon; their motions are flow, and require time in every action : 
even the act of procreation, which, among other animals, is per- 
formed in a very few minutes, is with them the bufmefs of days. 
About a month after their enlargement from a torpid ftate, they 
prepare to tranfmit their pofterity; and both continue joined for 
near a month together. The eggs of the female are contained 
in the ovary, above the bladder, v/hich is extremely large ; and 
thefe are, before their exclusion, round and naked, with fpots of 
red; after they are laid, however, they affume another form, 
being fmaller and longer than thofe of a hen. This alteration 
in the figure of the eggs moft probably proceeds from the narrow- 


ncfs of the bony paffage through which they are excluded. 
Swammerdam, who compared the fize of the eggs taken out 
of this animal's body with the diameter of the paflage through 
which they were excluded, was of opinion that the bones them- 
felves feparated from each other, and clofed again; but, in my 
opinion, it is more probable to ftippofe, that the eggs, and not 
the bones, alter their form. Certain it is, that they are round 
in the body, and that they are oval upon being protruded. 

The eggs of all the tortoife kind, like thofe of birds, arefur- 
nifhed with a yolk and a white ; but the fhell is different, being 
fomewhat like thofe foft eggs that hens exclude before their time: 
however, this (hell is much thicker and ftronger, and is a longer 
time in coming to maturity in the womb. The land tortoife 
lays but a few in number, if compared to the fea turtle, who de- 
pofits from an hundred and fifty to two hundred in a feafon. 

The amount of the land tortoife's eggs, I have not been able 
to learn ; but, from the fcarcenefs of the animal, I am apt to 
think they cannot be very, numerous. When it prepares to lay, 
the female fcratches a flight deprefiion in the earth, generally in 
a warm fituation, where the beams of the fun have their full 
eflecl: : there deponting her eggs, and covering them with grafs 
and leaves, fhe forfakes them, to be hatched by the heat of the 
feafon. The young tortoifss are generally excluded in about 
twenty-fix days : but, as the heat of the weather afFifls, or its 
coldnefs retards incubation, fometimes it happens that there is a 
difference of two or three days. The little animals no fooner 
leave the egg than they feek for their provifion, entirely feif- 
taught ; and their fhell, with which they are covered from the 
beginning, expands and grows larger with age. As it is com- 
pofed of a variety o pieces, they are all capable of extenfion at 
their futures, and the fhell admits of increafe in every direction. 
It is otherwife with thofe animals, like the lobfter, whofe fhell is 
compofed all of one piece, that admits of no increafe; in which, 
when the tenant is too big for the habitation, it muft burft the 
fhell, and get another. But the covering of the tortoife grows 
larger in proportion as the internal parts expand ; in forne meafure 
refembling the growth of the human fkull, which is compofed 


of a number of bones, increafing in fize in proportion to th6 
quantity of the brain. All tortoifes, therefore, as they never 
change their fhell, muft have it formed in pieces; and though, 
in fome that have been defcribed by painters or hiftorians, thefe 
marks have not been attended to, yet we can have no doubt; 
that they are general to the whole tribe. 

It is common enough to take thefe animals into gardens, as 
they are thought to deftroy infers and fnails in great abundance. 
We are even told that, in hot countries, they are admitted into 
a domeftic ftate, as they are great deftroyers of bugs. How fo 
large and heavy an animal is capable of being expert at fuch 
petty prey, is not eafy to conceive ; but I have feen feveral of 
them about gentlemen's houfes, that, in general, appear torpid, 
harmlefs, and even fond of employment* Children have fome- 
times got upon the back of a tortoife ; and fuch was the crea- 
ture's ftrength, that it never feemcd overloaded, but moved ofF 
with its burden to where it expected to be fed, but would carry 
them no further. In winter they regularly find out a place to 
fleep in ; but in thofe warm countries in which the tortoife is 
found larger, and in greater plenty than in Europe, they live, 
without retiring, the whole year round. 

The fea tortoife or turtle, as it is now called, is generally found 
larger than the former. This element is poflefTed with the pro- 
perty of increafing the magnitude of thofe animals, which are 
common to the land and the ocean. The fea pike is larger than 
that of frefh-water ; the fea bear is larger than that of the 
mountains ; and the fea turtle exceeds the land tortoife in the 
fame proportion. It is of different magnitudes, according to its 
different kinds ; fome turtles being not above fifty pounds 
weight, and fome above eight hundred. 

The great Mediterranean turtle is the largeft of the turtle 
kind with which we are acquainted. It is found from five to 
eight feet long, and from fix to nine hundred pounds weight. 
But, unluckily, its utility bears no proportion to its fize; as it 
is unfit for food, and fometimes poifons thofe who eat it. The 
fhell alfo, which is a tough ftrong integument, refembling an 


hide, is unfit for all ferviceable purpofes. One of thefe animals 
was taken in the year 1729, at the mouth of the Loire, in nets 
that were not deiigned for fo large a capture. This turtle^, 
which was of enormous ftrength, by its own ftruggles involved 
itfelf in the nets in fuch a manner as to be incapable of doing 
mifchief: yet even thus fhackled, it appeared terrible to the 
fifhermen, who were at firft for flying; but finding it impotent, 
they gathered courage to drag it on fhore, where it made a mod 
horrible bellowing; and when they began to knock it on the 
head with their gaffs, it was to be heard at half a mile's diftance. 
They were ftill further intimidated by its naufeous and peftilen- 
tial breath, which fo powerfully affe&ed them, that they were 
near fainting. This animal ^wanted but four inches of being 
eight feet long, and was above two feet over; its fhell more 
refembled leather than the fhell of a tortoife ; and, unlike all 
other animals of this kind^ it was furnifhed with teeth in each 
jaw, one rank behind another, like thofe of a {hark: its feet alfo, 
different from the reft of this kind, wanted claws; and the tail 
was quite difengaged from the fhell, and fifteen inches long, 
more refembling that of a quadruped than a tortoife. This ani- 
mal was then unknown upon the coafts of France; and was 
fuppofed to have been brought into the European feas, in fome 
India fhip that might be wrecked upon her return. Since that^ 
however, two or three of thefe animals have been taken upon 
the coafts ; two in particular upon thofe of Cornwall, in the 
year 1756, the largeft of which weighed eight hundred pounds; 
and one upon the ifle of Rhe, but two years before, that 
weighed between feven and eight hundred. One, moft probably 
of this kind alfo, was caught about thirty years ago near Scar- 
borough, and a good deal of company was invited to feaft upon 
it : a gentleman who was one of the guefts^ told the company 
that it was a Mediterranean turtle, and not wholefome; but a 
perfon who v/as willing to fatisfy his appetite at the rifque of 
his life, eat of it: he was feized with a violent vomiting and 
purging; but his confutation overpowered the malignity of the 

VOL. III. 3 H 


Thefe arc a formidable and ufelefs kind, if compared to the 
turtle caught in the South Seas and the Indian ocean. Thefe 
are of different kinds j not only unlike each other in form, but 
furni filing man with very different advantages. They are 
ufually diftinguifhed by failors into four kinds; the trunk 
turtle, the loggerhead, the hawkfbill, and the green turtle. 

The trunk turtle is commonly larger than the reft, and its 
back higher and rounder. The flefh of this is rank, and not 
very wholefome. 

The loggerhead is fo called from the largenefs of its head, 
which is much bigger in proportion than that of the othsr kinds. 
The flefli of this alfo is very rank, and not eaten but in cafe of 


The hawkfbill turtle is the leaft of the four, and has a long 
and fmall mouth, fomewhat refembling the bill of an hawk. 
The flefh of this alfo is very indifferent eating; but the fhell 
ferves for the moft valuable purpofes. This is the animal that 
fupplies the tortoife-fhell, of which fiich a variety of beautiful 
trinkets are made. The fubftance of which the fhells of other 
turtles are comported, is thin and porous ; but that of the hawkf- 
bill is firm^ and, when polifhed, is beautifully marbled. They 
generally carry about three pounds ; but the largeft of all, fix 
pounds. The fhell confifls, as in all the kinds, of thirteen leaves 
or plates, of which eight are flat, and five hollow. They are 
raifed and taken off by means of fire^ which is made under the 
fhell, after the flefli is taken out. As foon as the heat affects 
the leaves, they ftart from the ribs, and are eafily raifed with the 
point of a knife. By being fcraped and polifhed on both fides, 
they become beautifully tranfparent; or are eafily caft into 
what form the workman thinks proper, by making them foft 
and pliant in warm water^ and then fcrewing them in a mould, 
like a medal ; however, the fliell is rnoft beautiful before it un- 
dergoes this laft operation; 

But of all animals of the tortoife kind, the green turtle is the 
moft noted, and the moft valuable. The delicacy of its flefh, 
and its nutritive qualities, together with the property of being 


eafily digefted, were, for above a century, known only to our 
feamen and the inhabitants of the coafts where they were taken. It 
was not till by flow degrees, the diftincHon came to be made be- 
tween fuch as were malignant, and fuch as were wholefomc. The 
controverfies and contradictions of our old travellers, were nu- 
merous upon this head; fome aiTerting, that the turtle was 
delicious food ; and others, that it was adtual poifos* D ampler, 
that rough feaman, who has added more to natural hiftory than 
half of the philofophers that went before him, appears to be the 
firft who informed us of their diftin&ions ; and that, while the 
reft might be valuable for other purpofes, the green turtle alone 
was chiefly prized for the delicacy of its flefh. He never ima- 
gined, however, that this animal would make its way to the 
luxurious tables of Europe; for he feems chiefly to recommend 
it as falted up for {hip's provifion in cafe of neceffity. 

At prefent the turtle is very well known among us ; and is 
become the favourite food of thofe that are defirous of eating a 


great deal without the danger of furfeiting. This is a property 
the flefh of the turtle feems peculiarly pofiefled of; and by the 
importation of it alive -among us, gluttony is freed from one 
of its greateft reftraints. The flefh of turtle is become a 
branch of commerce; and therefore fliips are provided with con- 
veniences for fupplying them with water and provifion, to bring 
them over in health from Jamacia and other Weft-India iflands. 
This, however, is not always effected ; for though they are very 
vivacious, and fcarce require any provifion upon the voyage, yet, 
by the working of the fhip and their beating againft the fides of 
the boat that contains them, they become battered and lean ; fo 
that to eat this animal in the higheft perfection, inftead of bring- 
ing the turtle to the epicure, he ought to be tranfported to 
the turtle. 

This animal is called the green turtle, from the colour of its 
ihell, which is rather greener than that of others of this kind. 
It is generally found about two hundred weight ; though fome 
are five hundred, and others not above fifty. Dampier tells us, 
of one that was feen at Port Royal, in Jamaica, that was fix 
feet acrofs the back : he does not tell us its other dimenfions ; 


but fays, that the fort of captain Roach, a boy about ten years 
old, failed in the fhell, as in a boat, from the fhore to his father's 
fhip, which was above a quarter of a mile from land. But 
this is nothing to the fize of fome turtles the ancients fpeak of. 
./^Elian allures us, that the houfes in the ifland of Taprobane, 
are ufually covered with a fmgle fhell. Diodorus Siculus tells 
us, that a people neighbouring on Ethiopia, called the Turtle- 
eaters, coafted along the (liore in boats made of the upper fhell of 
this animal ; and that in war when they had eaten the flefh, the co- 
vering ferved them as a tent. In this account, Pliny, and all the 
reft of the ancients agree ; and as they had frequent opportuni- 
ties of knowing the truth, we are not lightly to contradict their 

At prefent, however, they are not feen of fuch amazing dimen- 
fions. We are told, by Laet, that on the ifle of Cuba they 
grow to fuch a fize, as that five men can {land on the back of 
one of them together; and what is more furprizing ftill, that 
the animal does not feem overloaded, but will go off with them 
upon its back, with a flow fteady motion, towards the fea. 

They are found in the greateft numbers on the ifland of Af- 
cenfion ; where, for feveral years, they were taken to be falted to 
feed the Haves, or for a fupply of fhip's provifion. Their value 
at prefent feems to be better known. 

This animal feldom comes from the fea but to depofit its 
eggs, and now and then to fport in frefh water. Its chief food 
is a fubmarine plant, that covers the bottom of feveral parts of 
the fea not far from the fhore. There the turtles are feeri, when 
the weather is fair, feeding in great numbers like flocks of fheep, 
feveral fathoms deep, upon the verdant carpet below. At ther 
times they go to the mouths of rivers, and they feem to find grati- 
fication in frefh water. After fome time thus employed, they 
ifeek their former ftations ; and when done feeding, they gene- 
rally fioat with their heads above water, unlefs they are alarmed 
by the approach of hunters or birds of prey, in which cafe they 
fuddcnly plunge to the bottom. They often feek their provifion 
among the rocks, feeding upon mofs and fea-weed ; and it is 


probable will not difdain to prey upon infe&s and other fmall 
Animals, as they are very fond of flefh when taken and fed for 
the table. 

At the time of breeding, they are feen to forfake their former 
haunts and their food, and to take fometimes a voyage of nine 
hundred miles to depofit their eggs on fome favourite fhore. 
The coafts they always refort to upon thefe occafions are thofe 
that are low, flat and fandy; for being heavy animals, they can- 
not climb a bold fhore ; nor is any bed fo proper as fand to lay 
their eggs on. They couple in March, and continue united till 
May ; during a great part of which time they are feen locked 
together, and almofl incapable of feparation. The female feems 
paflive and relu&ant; but the male grafps her with his claws 
in fuch a manner, that nothing can induce him to quit his hold. 
It would feem that the grafp, as in frogs, is in fome meafure 
convulfive, and that the animal is unable to relax its efforts. 

When the time for laying approaches, the female is feen to- 
wards the fetting of the fun drawing near the fhore, and looking 
earneftly about her, as if afraid of being difcovered. When fhe 
perceives any perfon on fhore, fhe feeks for another place ; but 
if otherwife fhe lands when it is dark, and goes to take a furvey 
of the fand where fhe defigns to lay. Having marked the fpot, 
fhe goes back, without laying for that night, to the ocean again ; 
but the next night returns to depofit a part of her burden. She 
begins by working and digging in the fand with her fore-feet 
till fhe has made a round hole, a foot broad and a foot and an half 
deep, juft at the place a little above where the water reaches 
higheft. This done, fhe lays eighty or ninety eggs at a time; 
each as big as a hen's egg, and as round as a ball. Shs conti- 
nues laying about the fpace of an hour ; during which time, if 
a cart were driven over her, fhe would not be induced to ftir. 
The eggs are covered with a tough, white (kin, like wetted 
parchment. When file has done laying, fhe covers the hole fo 
dexteroufly, that it is no eafy matter to find the place; and they 
muft be accuftomed to the fearch to make the difcovery.. When 
the turtle has done laying, fhe returns to the fea, and leaves her 
eggs to be hatched by the heat of the fun. At the end of fifteen 


days fhe lays about the fame number of eggs again ; and at the 
end of another fifteen days flie repeats the fame ; three times in 
al], ufmg the fame precautions every time for their fafety. 

In about twenty-four or twenty-five days after laying, the 
eggs are hatched by the heat of the fun ; and the young turtles, 
being about as big as quails, are feen burfting from the fand, as 
if earth-born, and cunning directly to the fca, with inftincl: only 
for their guide : but, to their great misfortune, it often happens 
that, their ftrength being fmall, the furges of the fea, for fome 
few days, beat them back upon the fhore. Thus expofed, they 
remain a prey to thoufands of birds that then haunt the coafts ; 
and thefe ftooping down on them carry off the greater! part, and 
fometimes the whole brood, before they have ftrength fufficient 
to withfrand the waves, or dive to the bottom. Helbigius in- 
forms us, that they have frill another enemy to fear, which is no 
other than the parent that produced them, which waits for their 
arrival at the edge of the deep, and devours as many as ihe can. 
This circuiriftance, however, demands further confirmation; 
though nothing is more certain, than that the crocodile acl:s in the 
fame unnatural manner. 

When the turtles have done laying, they then return to their 
accuflomed places of feeding. Upon their out-fet to the {hore, 
where they breed, they are a! ways found fat and healthy; but 
upon their return, they are weak, lean, and unfit to be eaten. 
"They are f:ldom, therefore, moleired upon their retreat ; but the 
great art is to feize them when arrived, or to intercept their arri- 
val. In thefe uninhabited ifiands, to which the green turtle chiefly 
reforts, the men that go to take them land about night-fall, and 
without making any noife (for thofe animals, though without any 
external opening of the ear, hear very, there being an 
auditory conduit that opens into the mouth) lie clofe while they 
fee the female turtle coming on ihore. They let her proceed to 
her greater! diftance from the fea ; and then, when fhe is more 
bufily employed in fcratching a hole in the fand, they fally out 
and furprize her. Their manner is to turn her upon her back, 
which utterly incapacitates her from moving ; and yet, as the 
creature is very flrong and ftruggles very hard, two men find it 


no eafy matter to lay her over. When thus fecured, they go to 
the next; and in this manner, in lefs than three hours, they have 
been known to turn forty or fifty turtles, each of which weighs 
from an hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds. Labat allures 
us, that when the animal is in this helplefs fituation, it is heard 
to figh very heavily, and even feen to filed tears. 

At prefent, from the great appetite that man has difcovered 
for this animal, they are not only thinned in their numbers, but 
are alfo grown much more fhy. There are feveral other ways, 
therefore, contrived for taking them. One is, to feize them when 
coupled together, at the breeding feafon, when they are very eafily 
approached, and as eafily feen ; for thefe animals, though capa- 
ble of living for fome time under water, yet rife every eight or 
ten minutes to breathe. As foon as they are thus perceived, 
two or three people draw near them in a canoe, and flip a nooze 
either round their nicies or one of their feet. If they have no line, 
they lay hold of them by the neck, where they have no fliell, 
.with their hands only ; and by this means, they ufually catch 
them both together. But fometimes the female efcapes, being 
more fhy than the male. 

Another way of taking them, is by the harpoon, either when 
they are playing on the furface of the water, or feeding at the 
bottom ; when the harpoon is fkilfully darted, it flicks faft in 
the fhell of the back ; the wood then difengages from the iron, 
and the line is long enough for the animal to take its range ; 
for if the harpooner ihould attempt at once to draw the animal 
into his boat before it is weakened by its own ftruggling, it would 
probably get free. Thus the turtle ftruggles hard to get loofe, 
but all in vain ; for they take care the line fattened to the har- 
poon fhall be ftrong enough to hold it. 

There is yet another way, which, though feemingly auk- 
ward, is faid to be attended with very great fuccefs. A good 
diver places himfelf at the head of the boat ; and when the tur- 
tles are obferved, which they fometimes are in great numbers, 
afleep on the furface, he immediately quits the veflel, at about 
fifty yards dillance, and keeping ftill under water, directs his 

432 AN HISTORY, &c. 

paffage to where the turtle was feen, and, coming up beneath, 
ieizes it by the tail ; the animal awaking, ftruggles to get free;' 
and by this both are kept at the furface until the boat arrives to 
take them in.